Theater review: ‘Wicked’Written by Chad Meredith | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After seeing “Wicked” at the Stranahan Theatre, the audience will never view “The Wizard of Oz” the same way again. “Wicked” tells the tragic tale of how Elphaba, a confident college student, with green skin, became the Wicked Witch of the West. Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics, and Winnie Holzman wrote the book. It is based on the novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of The West,” by Gregory Maguire. Director Joe Mantello has brought together a top-notch cast, masterful musicians, and a flawless tech crew to create a production that is not to be missed. Marcie Dodd’s performance makes the audience empathize and cheer for Elphaba.
In the upbeat “The Wizard And I,” Dodd’s teeth bearing smile and optimistic tone makes the audience share Elphaba’s anticipation of impressing the ruler of Oz. In the sentimental, “I’m not That Girl,” Dodd’s downtrodden voice and blank visage convinces the audience that Fieyro belongs with Elphaba. The impenetrable confidence in Dodd’s expression, coupled with a pleasingly resounding voice make “Defying Gravity” a bittersweet showstopper.
Dodd’s voice never descends or ascends too far, but hits just the right chords to reflect Elphaba’s transformation. Dodd’s in-between vocal range elegantly contrasts with Natalie Daradich’s (Glinda) high-pitched voice, and David De Vries’s (Doctor Dillamond) low-pitched voice. The shared vocal range of Marcie Dodd and Chris Peluso (Fiyero) musically conveys the intimacy between Elphaba and Fieyero. Natalie Daradich gave the audience a hilarious, yet complex performance of Glinda.
In the first act, Daradich successfully fools the audience into thinking that Glinda is the “dumb blonde” stereotype. Daradich rouses laughter from the audience by giggling nonsensically, kicking her legs, and giving silly responses with sincerity. In the Second Act, Daradich shows Glinda’s inner turmoil by switching from giving a happy-go-lucky smile to the public and sneaking in a frown when they are not looking, or she is alone. Daradich’s voice conveys Glinda’s cheerful personality in Act One, and her distress in Act Two. The supporting cast is also enchanting.
Chris Peluso’s agile dancing and suave singing makes the audience share Elphaba and Glinda’s infatuation with Fiyero. Marilyn Caskey’s choppy diction, cold tone and snobbish visage convey Madame Morrible’s icy personality. Don Amendolia’s warm smiles, fancy footwork, and smooth talking give the audience a likeable, albeit suspicious, Wizard of Oz. Zach Hanna’s sincere tone and hopeful visage make the audience care about Boq, despite Boq’s naiveté. David De Vries’ tall stature and matter-of-fact tone create a believable professor. Kristen Reese’s angelic voice and emotional performance of Nessa is captivating and thought provoking. The makeup and costumes helped bring these fantastical characters to life.
Layers of emerald green makeup transformed Marcie into Elphaba. The arch of Elaphaba’s eyebrows and contour of her eyes increases from Act 1 to Act 2 to help illustrate Elphaba’s change from simple student to glamorous witch. Snow-white makeup on Madame Morrible’s face gives her a ghastly appearance, and accentuates her evil intentions. Madame Morrible’s receded hairline and pulled-back bun give her an imposing aura.
More than 200 costumes are worn in “Wicked.” Each costume is individually tailored for the particular actor or actress. Susan Hilferty designed them. Elpahaba’s outfits reflect her transformation from ordinary student to powerful sorceress. In Act I, Elphaba wears a dull, blue, button-up coat, a knit hat, and her hair is braided. When Elphaba assumes the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, she has donned a black sultry dress, a pointy witch’s hat, and her hair is unbraided. Glinda wears sparkly blue and pink dresses, with frills, and a flower in her hair. By the end of Act Two, Glinda has become a shimmering princess. The ensemble’s costumes were finely detailed, as well.
The Munchkins wear rags and tattered clothing that reflect their social status in Oz. The denizens of the Emerald City wear fantastical hats, dresses, suits and item that look like they were pulled from a Dr. Seuss book. These outfits appear expensive, and reflect their high social status in Oz. The fur and feathers on these outfits sends the message that these people do not care about the rights of animals. The technical wizardry is wondrous.
Set designer Eugene Lee brings Oz to life. A menacing iron dragon looms over the stage, with its claws open, and wings outstretched. When its eyes light up, and smoke billows from it, the audience is thrust into the world of Oz. A bubble brings Glinda to Munchkin Land, and then transforms into a giant pendulum. A circular arch is used for a magnificent light display in the Emerald City. In “Defying Gravity,” as Elphaba ascends, it magically appears as though she is flying. The most impressive technical element is the mechanical Wizard Head.
Even though the audience knows that the Wizard’s mechanical head is only used to intimidate people, it is no less terrifying. As the audience sees this giant head come to life, and hears its booming voice give orders, it becomes very easy to forget that it is not the Wizard. The music of “Wicked” could not be possible without the many skilled musicians in the orchestra.
Conductor Adam Souza helped ensure that the musicians hit all the right notes. The musicians include an Associate Conductor and keyboardists Flint Hawes, Phillip Kirchman, Christopher Chung, guitarist David Boguslaw, and drummer Paul Hannah. Nine local musicians will be playing at all performances in Toledo, as well. They never miss a note, and make every song memorable.
Not since “The Phantom of The Opera” has there been a musical as successful as “Wicked.” Aside from its spectacle and songs, “Wicked’s” success can also attributed to its themes of animal rights, questioning those in power, and always striving to do what is right. At the center of this musical is the unbreakable friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. The cast and crew prove that “Wicked” is a masterpiece.
A day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats will be held daily for “Wicked,” which will be performing from March31-April 18 at the Stranahan Theater. Each day, 2 ½ hours prior to show time people who present themselves at the Stranahan Theater box office will have their names placed in a lottery drum and then thirty minutes later, names will be drawn for a limited number of orchestra seats at $25 each, cash only. This lottery is available only in-person at the box office, with a limit of two tickets per person.