“Wicked” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ August 31, 2015



Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage

Tempe, AZ

Although dreadful weather greeted Thursday’s press opening for the fourth local return of “Wicked,” the splashy and lavishly elaborate popular musical at ASU Gammage is a Broadway caliber production that made the audience forget the rain as it sparked the lusty commotion necessary to create a thoroughly delightful telling of “The Wizard of Oz’s” pre-story.

As is the case with most Broadway musical tours that stop here, the original Broadway production and its stars influence each road production but this pristine new tour’s two leads come close to cloning the original Broadway stars, KristIn Chenoweth’s good witch, Glinda, and Idina Menzel’s award-winning Elphaba.

Alyssa Fox possesses Menzel’s big, rich voice but she doesn’t quite have the Broadway star’s dynamically shimmering personality.  Carrie St. Louis has Chenoweth’s glistening, soaring voice and the finely honed comic skills to bring audiences Glinda’s endless laughs.

Surrounding the two stars is a spot-on cast that recreates other roles with sparkling pizzazz.  And, unlike many downscaled Broadway road tours, the ASU Gammage stage is filled with lush, ever changing, and vibrantly colorful scenery that dazzles while the sumptuously sparkly New York costumes glisten with fancifully lavish delight.  This production uses lots of new technical innovations that duplicate the original production effects without as much mechanical backup.

To be fair, many of today’s new musicals have more penetrating stories than “Wicked’s” heart-felt emotionalism but if joyous entertainment is desired, there’s nothing better than “Wicked.”

The simple story places two witches who don’t know the range of their supernatural powers at school where experiences force them to learn about their vast but different powers.  Elphaba seems more evil while the always good Glinda uses her powers to calm the Oz munchkins while exposing the Wizard’s lack of power.  By the end, everything and everyone turns pleasantly happy.

The show boasts Stephen Schwartz’ catchy and melodic score while Winnie Holzman’s book, based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, is loaded with merry frivolity that makes “Wicked” one of the most entertaining musicals ever created.  Joe Mantello’s breezy staging and Wayne Cilento’s swirling dances make the action fun to watch.  Even when “Wicked” gets more dramatic, there’s still a winsome charm to the story.

“Wicked” is playing the longest run of any Broadway touring show in ASU Gammage history and it runs through October 4.  While good tickets remain throughout the six week run, once word gets out, remaining tickets will fly out of the box office.  For tickets to this outstandingly entertaining and sharply performed “Wicked,” call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A