Theatre Reviews
Photo by Joan Marcus courtesy of The Fabulous Fox

The musical “Wicked” opened on Broadway in 2004 and was nominated for ten Tony awards with Idina Menzel winning for Best Actress in a Musical. It is currently the 4th longest running show on Broadway and is still going strong.

The musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and a book by Winnie Holzman, is loosely based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”. The story takes place both before and after Dorothy Gale arrives in Oz from Kansas. It is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz. “Wicked” tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda (later Glinda the Good Witch).

The Broadway Touring Company of “Wicked” has returned to The Fabulous Fox for a limited run after several very successful tours in the past. The crowd on the night I attended seemed to be made up of “Wicked” faithful and many were festooned for the occasion to boot. It was a glorious production from top to bottom. And speaking of top, above the curtain line is a giant dragon that lights up and blows smoke at appropriate moments. The traveling five-piece orchestra, led impeccably by Evan Roider, is aided by nine local musicians from our Musicians Association of St. Louis Local 2-197 AFM. Cheers to the National Tour for hiring local talent! Settings, by Eugene Lee, and costumes, by Susan Hilferty, are incredible and stunning. The lighting, sound, projections, and special effects (by Kenneth Posner, Tony Meola, Elaine J. McCarthy and Chic Silber respectively) combine to create absolute spellbinding MAGIC.

Of course, all the shiny bells and whistles don’t mean a thing without a strong cast, and this touring company is chock full of strong everything. The story opens just after the Wicked Witch of the West has died from Dorothy throwing water on her and the Munhkins are overjoyed. Glinda (played pitch perfectly by Jennafer Newberry) floats down in her bubble to answer any lingering questions one of which is in regards to her personal history with the aforementioned dead witch. And thus begins our history lesson of Elphaba and Galinda (before she changed her name to Glinda). We are soon transported to their first encounter at college and we meet a fresh, and very green, faced Elphaba (passionately and perfectly portrayed by Lissa Deguzman). Throughout the play we learn the origin stories of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. We discover that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is really not all that wonderful. There are universal themes here of unlikely friendships, unrequited love, good vs evil and how to tell the two apart.

The songs are the star of the show, the cast album won a Grammy in 2004, and this ensemble, especially Newberry and Deguzman, do them proud. Each and every voice fills The Fox with heart and soul. The supporting players are all terrific but standouts are Boise Holmes, as Doctor Dillamond, and Christian Thompson, as Fiyero. The show runs just shy of three hours but the time flies by, pun intended.

“Wicked” at The Fabulous Fox runs through May 7th. For tickets and information go to The Fabulous Fox website.

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