Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Wicked
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Fully Committed, Sleeping Beauty, and Into the Woods


Amanda Jane Cooper and Jessica Vosk
Photo by Joan Marcus
Wicked> has not aged much in the 13(!) years since its Broadway opening, based on the strong performances and polished production of the tour at the Kennedy Center's Opera House in Washington through January 8. If anything, Winnie Holzman's book seems prescient with its comments about corrupt leadership and the need to manipulate facts to stir up discontent among the residents of Oz.

Most important, this production has the strong core it needs with Jessica Vosk as Elphaba and Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda. The whole point of Holzman's book and Stephen Schwartz's score, adapted from Gregory Maguire's novel, is the complicated truth beyond the simplistic labels of "good" and "evil" portrayed in The Wizard of Oz as a green-skinned wicked witch and an angelic good witch in a white gown. (It's an interesting contrast with the production of Into the Woods next door in the Eisenhower Theater: the themes are similar, but Into the Woods invites the audience to help create the spectacle that Wicked provides.)

Vosk is a powerhouse performer who conveys Elphaba's innate integrity throughout. She may be abrasive and moody (no one likes a grimly serious young woman, especially if she has green skin) but she learns from her experiences and never loses her need to do what she knows to be right. Cooper is appropriately pert and self-absorbed, growing in stature as Glinda realizes that life is less about her own popularity and more about "dwelling on the past" (her objection to studying history). She has the soaring soprano voice while going easy on the extra vocal tricks that can become annoying.

Isabel Keating, recently a heartbreaking Birdie in The Little Foxes at Arena Stage, exercises a totally different set of acting muscles as the imperious Madame Morrible. Fred Applegate is an avuncular Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as he's billed here, which makes his political calculations seem even more chilling. (He stays in power by disenfranchising minority populations and giving the general public targets for their anger.) Chad Jennings gives a touching performance as Doctor Dillamond, the last sentient animal to teach at the university attended by Elphaba and Glinda, and Jeremy Woodard and Andy Mientus give solid performances as Fiyero and Boq respectively.

Joe Mantello's direction remains crisp and compulsively watchable, assisted by Wayne Cilento's almost continuous musical staging. Eugene Lee's scenic design may be less detailed than on Broadway, with assistance from Elaine J. McCarthy's projections, but the mechanical dragon perched on the proscenium still has flashing red eyes and flaps its wings, and Susan Hilferty's costumes are a hilarious mashup of eras and styles, lit atmospherically by Kenneth Posner.

Kennedy Center
Wicked December 14th, 2016 - January 8th, 2017
Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by Winnie Holzman
Glinda: Amanda Jane Cooper
Witch's Father: Wayne Schroder
Witch's Mother: Kerry Blanchard
Midwife: Tregoney Shepherd
Elphaba: Jessica Vosk
Nessarose: Kristen Martin
Boq: Andy Mientus
Madame Morrible: Isabel Keating
Doctor Dillamond: Chad Jennings
Fiyero: Jeremy Woodard
Ozian Official: Wayne Schroder
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Fred Applegate
Chistery: Chase Madigan
Monkeys, Students, Denizens of the Emerald City, Palace Guards and Other Citizens of Oz: Allison Bailey, Kerry Blanchard, Giovanni Bonaventura, Beka Burnham, Jillian Butler, Lauren Cannon, Jordan Casanova, Michael Drolet, Ryan Patrick Farrell, Anthony Festa, Garett Hawe, Melissa Legaspi, Tiffany Rae Mallari, Olivia Polci, Anthony Sagaria, Tregoney Shepherd, Clay Thomson, Nyla Watson, Justin Wirick
Directed by Joe Mantello
Musical staging by Wayne Cilento
Music supervisor: Stephen Oremus
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org


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