By Cate Marquis, staff writer
For their holiday show, the Fabulous Fox Theater brings back one of its biggest Broadway hits, “Wicked,” which is returning for the fifth time. The previous four runs broke box office records so it is definitely a crowd pleaser. This engagement with the Broadway touring cast runs through January 3.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, the Broadway hit musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman tells the story of the witches of Oz that is both a prequel and an alternate version of Dorothy’s story in “The Wizard of Oz.” Two girls meet at college—a shy, smart green-skinned one and a beautiful, popular one—and we learn of the events before they go on to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. The girl power story and diversity theme makes it timely but the themes of political intrigue and the quality of friendship make it timeless.
“Wicked” is the rare musical that combines a strong story with great songs, marvelous costumes, and massive, magical sets—everything you would want from a Broadway show. No wonder it is “Popular.”
On Broadway, Idina Menzel (now better known to little girls everywhere for singing “Frozen” hit “Let It Go”) and Kristin Chenoweth originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda. But the Broadway touring casts have always featured strong voices and good acting, and this year is no exception.
At the December 10 performance, green-skinned Elphaba was played by Mary Kate Morrissey, filling in for Emily Koch, and beautiful, popular Galinda (later Glinda) was played by Amanda Jane Cooper. Although she was taking over for the ailing Koch, Morrissey delivered a terrific performance, belting out numbers and keeping up the back-and-forth with Cooper, as the perky, comic Galinda/Glinda.
The story opens with Elphaba’s stern, widowed father, the ruler of Munchkinland, sending her to college only to assist her wheelchair bound sister, Nessarose. Elphaba is smart but a social outsider, not just because of her green skin but her social awkwardness and outspokenness. Galinda, on the other hand, is beautiful, popular, and used to getting her own way. They do not hit it off when they meet. When the college’s Dean, Madame Morrible (Wendy Worthington), discovers Elphaba has a gift for magic, she takes her under her wing, much to Galinda’s dismay.
The voices were great, particularly Morrissey and Cooper. Morrissey has the power to belt out “The Wizard and I” and the showstopper “Defying Gravity,” the high-flying number that closes the first act. Cooper was filled with comic charm, singing the playful hit “Popular.” However, the Fox sound system seemed in need of adjustment, and the orchestra sometimes drowned out the lyrics, unfortunately.
Megan Masako Haley was good as Nessarose as were Jake Boyd as Fiyero, the handsome classmate who seems a good match for Glinda, and Sam Seferian as Boq, one of the few Munchkins at the college. Also good were Chad Jennings, who plays Dr. Dillamont, the history professor who also happens to be a goat. Funny, lively Stuart Zagnit plays the Wizard with showman comedy and the requisite con-artist charm. Worthington, as bombastic Madame Morrible, seemed to be the audience favorite among the supporting cast.
Wildly creative, colorful costumes and terrific song-and-dance numbers kept the entertainment level high. The huge, partly-animated sets, which often featured large cogs and clocks, were still impressive.
Whether you have seen it before or not, “Wicked” is a musical well worth the trip to the theater. Tickets are a bit pricey, at $40-$200, but the Fox is offering a lottery to win tickets. Two hours before every performance, people present at the Fox box office will have the chance to enter their names for a drawing for orchestra-seat tickets, for the bargain price of $25 each. Check the Fox for details.