I think some critics give bad reviews in order to save up the accolades for when they see true greatness. My short list of the greatest Broadway shows of all time would be the original casts of "Porgy and Bess," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "West Side Story" and "Les Miserables," but in my opinion, "Wicked" tops them all.
Many are going to disagree with me on this, but I believe that "Wicked" is the finest American musical ever, period. Of course it helps to appreciate "Wicked" if you have a sarcastic sense of humor.
Winnie Holtzman's book, based on Gregory Maguire's novel, completely deconstructs "The Wizard of Oz," making the Wicked Witch of the West a misunderstood heroine. The Wizard (Tom McGowan) puts it best as he explains to Elphaba the nature of truth. Essentially the victors write history to favor their perspective. McGowan's Wizard is a con artist, just as in "The Wizard of Oz," but he needs Elphaba's immense powers to complete his vision of Oz's future. Elphaba's tender heart and meek, humble nature result in the events which lead to Dorothy's arrival and her eventual journey through Oz.
Dee Roscioli as Elphaba (left) and Patti Murin as Glinda have been playing their roles longer than any other previous “Wicked” actresses.
WICKED A NEW MUSICAL photo
Those events are set off by Elphaba casting a spell which allows monkeys to fly. An animal lover, she wants animals to be free and equal citizens of Oz, so she releases a caged talking Lion cub, who grows up to become a coward. She wants her crippled sister Nessarose (Demaree Hill), aka the Wicked Witch of the East to walk, so she casts a spell on her jeweled shoes. When a spurned Nessarose casts a spell, killing the heart of her Munchkin boyfriend, Elphaba turns him into a man of tin so he will not die. When Elphaba's beau, and Glinda's ex, Fiyero (Clifton Hall), gives his life to save hers, he is hung up to rot in a cornfield by the Wizard's guards. Again, Elphaba resurrects the dead by turning him into a Scarecrow. The scorned Wizard, his press secretary Madame Morrible (Kim Zimmer), and even Glinda set forth a plan of revenge. First, Morrible conjures up a cyclone and drops a house on Nessarose and then, thanks to Glinda, "that farm girl," went of with the shoes.
There are many clever subplots and surprises in "Wicked," but what makes it a truly phenomenal production are the songs. The music of Steven Schwartz is simply astounding. It's lush, beautiful, powerful and tear-jerking. The entire ensemble is a powerhouse of big Broadway belting voices, but Roscioli and Murin make the show. Murin is beyond adorable and fantastically funny. What makes her portrayal so compelling however is that she has a pitch-perfect soprano range, but purposely drops it at times slipping into a sing-song blonde valley girl cadence for comedic effect, then returning to deliver the soprano notes.
As good as Murin is, Roscioli is even better. As an actor she makes the entire audience fall in love with the quirky Elphaba and even cheer when Hall, the heartthrob beau, picks the dorky girl over the prom queen. When combined with her amazing vocal skills, particularly on "Defying Gravity," it is obvious why the "Wicked" producers have asked her to continue to play this role longer than any other Elphaba.
"Wicked" is quite frankly a perfect show. If you've ever paid $100 to see the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd or Lady Gaga, that is the category "Wicked," belongs in. But again, "Wicked" is better.
The national tour of "Wicked," by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman continues for an eight-week run through Jan. 12. The Honolulu production will have eight performances per week at the Blasdell Concert Hall, Tuesdays through Sundays.
Ticket prices range from $52 to $176; military discounts are available. To purchase tickets, call (808) 593-2468 or visit www.magicspace.net/wicked.