by CHRISTINE SARKES
Wicked at the historic Orpheum Theatre is so good on so many levels, there really is no need to write a review – just go see it, if you can. The songs are achingly beautiful, the messages touchingly resonant and topical, and the lighting, costumes and sets visually stunning. I love this show with every fiber of my being and, given the energy and excitement of the audience, it is a universal feeling among theatergoers. If you’ve seen the show before, I know from personal experience Wicked won’t lose its magic after several viewings. Since opening in 2003, Wicked has won over 100 international awards, including the Grammy Award and three Tony Awards, and is the 5th longest-running show in Broadway history.
The musical is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, an alternative telling of the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” and L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz; its plot begins before and continues after the unseen Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from Kansas, and it includes many references to the 1939 film and Baum’s novel. Wicked tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (Lissa deGuzman) and Glinda (Jennafer Newberry), who struggle through an initial mutual “loathing,” rivalry over the same love interest, the Wizard’s patriarchal view of governing and, ultimately, Elphaba’s public fall from grace. This Broadway telling turns the old story on its head about who is “good”, who is “wicked” and the personal cost of living an authentic life as a someone who defies convention or doesn’t fit into society’s definitions of beauty or acceptable norms. Tony-award winning songs, “Defying Gravity,” “Popular” and “For Good,” examine those themes. Many in the audience laughed knowingly (uncomfortably?) during the Wizard of Oz’s (John Bolton) speeches about authoritarian rule, political propaganda and the gullibility of the masses. The special magic that is Wicked is that it offers so much to the audience: timeless human experience themes, extraordinary songs, delightful costuming, and visually stunning sets.
The players in this production give their performances everything they’ve got. Newberry and deGuzman’s soaring vocals will raise goosebumps during certain songs. Newberry as Glinda has superior comedic chops and offers the evening’s biggest physical comedy laughs and “legally blonde” moments. I particularly enjoyed dishy Jordan Litz’s performance as Fiyero and Lisa Howard as Madame Morrible.
If you’ve never seen the musical, DO NOT view Idina Menzel or Kristin Chenoweth in the roles beforehand – your expectations for the vocal performances will be raised too high. Watch them afterward and know what true Broadway magic sounds like.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, WICKED has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and a book
by Winnie Holzman. Directed by Joe Mantello with musical staging by Wayne Cilento, Lighting by Kenneth Posner and Special Effects by Chic Silber. Showing now to Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, at the historic Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Performance times are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Ticket prices start at $54. All pricing includes a Building Restoration Fee of $5.00.