Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone’s game. Too late for second-guessing. Too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts. Close my eyes and leap!
And so begins one of the most iconic songs in modern musical theater, Defying Gravity. And it’s certainly the pinnacle in a confectioner’s display case of decadent treat after treat.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, Wicked is pure imagination. A mechanical dragon sits atop the stage, it’s red eyes glowing brightly in the dark theater, it’s head swiveling to and fro on a graceful neck of wheels and metal. And that’s probably the least eye-popping thing in the production – which is really saying something.
I’ll get to the singers in a moment, but I MUST give so much credit to the crew and production team of Wicked (Setting: Eugene Lee; Lighting: Kenneth Posner; Projections: Elaine J. McCarthy; Special Effects: Chic Silber; Technical Supervisor: Jake Bell Production Stage Manager: David O’Brien). The clever staging, the mesmerizing lights, the pop of colors and the swirls of mist…it was all such a joy to watch and seriously half the fun of this show. From Glinda coming down to the stage in her brightly lit bubble, to the surprisingly scary monkeys (even before they could fly), to that moment in Defying Gravity when Mary Kate Morrissey looks like she really is defying gravity, I was entranced. And the costumes by Susan Hilferty were simply stunning, something Lady Gaga would wear circa Bad Romance.
Now, about that singing…Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba was ceiling-shattering with her sweeping voice, and Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda deserves Olympic gold for the flexibility and ferocity of a voice that, even when speaking, could jump and gasp and giggle and contort like a gymnast performing a floor routine. Michael Capayno as Fiyero and Judy Kaye as Madame Morrible were also standouts among stars of a cast. Truly, there wasn’t a weak link in the entire production.
The story itself is simple enough: it begins in the aftermath of a certain farm girl just having melted a certain wicked witch. Glinda is regaling the townspeople of what happened and that’s when we’re thrust into a magical, musical flashback that tracks both the good and bad witches as young women attending school together. Throw in some animals in peril, a wizard who isn’t so benign as he first seems, a love triangle that tests the bounds of female friendship, and voila! You have, in the words of John Travolta (sorta), a wickedly good time.
The novel has been on my To Be Read list for a while, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I liked that I was able to go into this show completely not knowing. I liked how it winked at the classic Wizard of Oz movie but also remained separate and it’s own creative story. My only gripe with the show was that sometimes, it was hard to understand the words they were singing. Not sure if it was a mic issue or what, but at least a few times in every song, there were parts that sounded warbled.
All in all, this show is a powerhouse for a reason and I highly recommend it.
Wicked plays until February 11. Tickets are on sale now