Any person who grew up watching The Wizard of Oz (myself very much included) will absolutely adore Wicked, now at the Orpheum from September 16th to October 27th. The audience is Immediately drawn in to the complicated love-hate relationship of Oz’s two favorite witches, Galinda Upland (Jenn Gambatese) and Elphaba Thropp (Alison Luff). As schoolmates, they initially share an “unadulterated loathing” for one another, but they overcome their differences to form the friendship of a lifetime. It’s got everything, from talented stars to enthralling subplots, whirling costumes to dazzling lighting. It’s absolutely captivating, and (aside from a few minor slip-ups) it was perfectly executed.
Gambatese and Luff led this show with brilliant singing and acting. Each character was easy to like, love and hate all at once, a very difficult thing to achieve. Their chemistry as enemies was every bit as strong as their heartwrenching friendship, and their vocals repeatedly gave the entire audience shivers with pure intensity and passion. Their shared love interest, bad boy Fiyero Tigelaar (Curt Hansen), was every bit the lovable pompous jerk he needed to be. I’d say these three carried the whole show, but I’m amazed to say that every last chorus member and supporting role rose to the challenge and blew me away.
As would and could be expected of the magical land of Oz, everything was magnificent, larger than life, and of course, green. Skirts swirled, people were aloof and glamorous, steampunk-style sets shifted and glided, and I can’t possibly leave out the giant flying bubble machine. It’s just so perfect. A giant metal bubble spewing tiny actual bubbles. What could be better? Oh, I know! The fact that Luff is lifted into the sky, or maybe the giant steel dragon? This show just has too many wonderful things to name. Although the designs and pieces were incredibly well presented, there were a few little mistakes. Madame Morrible (Kim Zimmer), a sorceress with a knack for weather, makes a huge display of clearing up a rainy day. The light shifted, and the dreary gray set turned a pretty, sunkissed gold. But the rain sound was still playing. It took away from the awe of her powers a bit. Beyond the rain, there were close to no errors.
I arrived at the theater expecting to see a great show, with amazing singing on songs I already knew to be brilliant. My expectations were completely shattered within moments, as the world of Oz unfolded on stage. It’s a funny, smart, and truly moving piece of theater, which links every possible aspect of performance in one dazzling, truly wonderful show.
Photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Hennepin Theatre Trust. Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.