Review: WICKED Casts A Strong Spell Even After 15 Years

WICKED in Seattle

Mariand Torres as Elphaba in WICKED. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

WICKED is the smash hit musical that has taken over Broadway, and the world over. It is a beautifully crafted show with great music and lyrics, entertaining the way a musical should. It is flying back to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre and should not be missed.

WICKED is enchanting audiences at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre until July 07, 2019. Get tickets and info here!

The story line is a twist on the classic “Wizard of Oz” tale. Except this is a prequel that takes place before Dorothy from Kansas ever drops in, in her misdirected house landing. WICKED tells the story of how the Wicked Witch becomes (or is interpreted as being) WICKED. Elphaba is born to a normal life except that she is born with green skin. Because of this ‘handicap’ she is shunned and feared instantly by everyone, including her parents. She grows up with a sister (Nessarose, who is born without the ability to walk) and together; they attend the University, Shiz. The headmistress, Madame Morrible, recognizes Elphaba’s talents and personally begins tutoring her in sorcery. Due to an error, Elphaba is assigned to be roommates with a shallow socialite named Galinda, who is used to getting her way and being the center of attention. Galinda tries to embarrass Elphaba at a school dance, but it only serves to capture the attention of the most handsome boy at school, a slovenly princeling named Fiyero.  Galinda, who thinks she’s entitled to only the best, is attracted to Fiyero not only for his looks, but because of his social status in Oz. Elphaba becomes rebellious when she realizes that Oz is being ruled by a tyrannical government under the Wizard’s leadership. The Wizard is enforcing harsh laws for those that are different. When Elphaba (and Galinda) are summoned by the Wizard, they are asked to join his team. Elphaba flies into a furious, rebellious rage, while Galinda is afraid of rebellion.  Elphaba vows to become an enemy of the state, wanting to bring down the Wizard’s corruption. The Wizard’s secretary employs propaganda to make Elphaba look evil, and she is labeled as The WICKED Witch of the West. It is only then that a little girl from Kansas arrives and is used to hunt down and defeat the ‘evil’ villain of Oz.

WICKED is a wonderful and original take on a classic story. The cast is great and does a fantastic job with the chorus, minor roles and the choreography of the show. (Shout out to Corinne McFadden Herrera, the show’s Associate Choreographer) The supporting roles are all important to the storyline and each one gets a chance to shine in their own way.

Sharon Sachs plays Madame Morrible, who is at first a teacher at Shiz University, and later becomes the Wizard’s official secretary. Her voice is clear with a subtle power that gives her character a matronly edge. Ms. Sachs adds the right touch of villainy to the show. Jason Graae plays The Wizard. His take is both jovial and authoritative, giving a paternal addition to his character. There’s a bit of comedy associated with the Wizard, and Mr. Graae takes it in good stride.

Mariand Torres, Sharon Sachs, Erin Mackey in WICKED. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Michael Wartella plays Boq, the Munchkin boy that suffers from unrequited love for Galinda and ends up serving Nessarose due to his pity for her. His character is cute and comical, and Mr. Wartella plays it with such intent.  Curt Hansen plays Fiyero, the lazy, self-entitled prince that becomes the love interest for both Galinda and Elphaba. Mr. Wartella does a great job of showing the transformation from an uncaring, entitled princeling, to someone that matures and is inspired by Elphaba, and her rebellious nature to stand up for what is right. His voice is good especially when singing “Dancing For Life”, or the beautifully haunting duet with Elphaba, “Now That You’re Mine.”

The main leads of the show are the two opposing “Witches” of Oz – Galinda the Good (played by Erin Mackey) and Elphaba (played by Mariand Torres), who becomes “The WICKED Witch of the West”. Ms. Mackey is fantastic as the shallow, socialite whose only interests are fashion and being “popular”. Her voice is clear and powerful especially when singing the opening and closing numbers.  Ms. Torres is excellent as Elphaba. The audience easily understands her demeanor and we become immediately endeared to her plight. When Ms. Torres sings “Defying Gravity” (Act One’s closing number), the audience is swept up in her defiant anthem. Her voice has a powerful gusto, strength and a drive that pulls the audience to its feet with applause. Both of these characters are pitted against each other from the very beginning, sharing equal time on stage, and we are all caught up in the strong, powerful and bonding relationship that forms between the two. Their voices work well together whether it is in the clashing of their personalities, as in the song ‘Loathing’, or the beautifully heartfelt, ‘For Good’.  Both women take strong control of their characters, embedding themselves into their roles naturally, as if they were written for these two ladies.

WICKED is a fantastic show, not only for the beautiful music and powerful lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (“Pippin”, “Godspell”), but also for the storyline of friendship, adapted by Emmy winning Winnie Holzman. The story has several changes from the international best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire, which took a completely different spin from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Elphaba is a rebel that stands up and fights for the underdog, labeled wicked only by an oppressive government. It’s a show that is empowering for young girls, gay men, or for anyone that has ever wanted to overcome oppression.  The message is clear: Be yourself – no matter how different you may be in appearance or personality.

WICKED opened on Broadway on October 30, 2003 and is still playing to packed houses 15 years later. WICKED was nominated for 10 Tony Awards (including Best Musical), and won three including Best Actress in a Musical (for Idina Menzel as Elphaba). Other original cast members included: Kristen Chenoweth (Galinda, a role written with her in mind), Norbert Leo Butz (as Fiyero), and Joel Grey (the Wizard). WICKED is based on the international best seller, “WICKED: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire. The musical WICKED currently holds the title of “The Sixth Longest Running Broadway Musical” in American history.

WICKED is enchanting audiences at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre until July 07, 2019. Get tickets and info here!

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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