Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see Kevin's review of Doubt
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, in conjunction with Stanford Broadway Across America Ft. Lauderdale, Marc Platt Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone present the National Tour of Wicked.
Wicked is the smash hit Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a libretto by Winnie Holzman. The story is based on the best-selling novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Maguire's novel takes on the tale of L. Frank Baum's classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz through an imaginative and twisted perspective of the characters of the witches of the Land of Oz. The plot is set mostly prior to Dorothy's arrival from Kansas, though it does include references to well-known scenes and dialogue in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz which had made the story such an identifiable classic.
The musical Wicked begins with the citizens of Oz celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West outside of the Wizard's Palace. Glinda descends in her gleaming bubble to confirm the circumstances of the Witch's melting and is asked if it is true that she and Elphaba were once friends. Her answer is the telling of the moving story of the relationship between the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Good Witch of the North.
We are taken to a scene years earlier, at the birth of the green-skinned Elphaba Thropp who is the daughter of the governor of Munchkinland (later the Wicked Witch of the West). She suffers an unhappy childhood, facing discrimination because of her skin color and odd magical powers. She tends to her younger sister Nessarose (later the Wicked Witch of the East), who is confined to a wheelchair, as they set out for Shiz University. It is there that she first meets the vapid Glinda Upland (later the Good Witch of the North, or Glinda the Good). The girls are assigned as roommates and immediately dislike each other. Elphaba's magical talents are noticed by the headshiztress of Shiz, Madame Morrible, who takes her on as her private pupil in the art of sorcery in hopes that they might be of use the the Wizard. Madame Morrible truly seeks her own advancement through the use of Elpahaba's powers. Though it is Elphaba's dream to work with the great Wizard, she discovers there is corruption in the government at hand, and she seeks to rectify it. Her world is torn apart by her rebellion and the circumstances around it which are manipulated and misunderstood. Despite the way in which they are perceived by the world, Elphaba and Glinda share a friendship that is deep and true. In the end she and Glinda, and all those around them, are greatly changed by their journey.
The sets, lighting, special effects and costuming for this production are all truly spectacular. It is undoubtedly these things that have added to the success of the show. The choreography, though well performed, has little structure or cohesiveness of style - a surprising thing in such a stylized show. Only in one moment, at the Stardust Ballroom, does the choreography define a character or moment, or serve to further the plot.
Alma Cuervo is tasty as the pragmatically self-serving Mrs. Morrible. Tom Flynn as Dr. Dillamond manages to be a fine actor even beneath a goat mask. An exceedingly handsome Cliffton Hall as Fiyero finds substance in his character as the man destined to become made of straw. Brad Weinstock as Boq and Deedee Magno Hall as Nessarose are both enjoyable, but Lee Wilkof turns in a disappointing milquetoast performance as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Katie Rose Clark as Glinda sings beautifully as the show opens. Though at mid-show she seemed to have moments when she was out of breath, she rallied after intermission. She misses a few comedic opportunities early in the show, but delivers a wonderful, memorably comedic performance in the song "Popular." The performance to watch in this show is a fiercely talented Carmen Cusack as Elphaba. She does not belt or scream the role, she really sings it - and more importantly acts it. She has so much heart in her performance that she breathes a life into the character and her conflicts that is palpable. She and Katie Rose Clark as Glinda create a moment or two that make one ache with empathy for the ill-fated friends. The story is, after all, about their friendship, and the two actresses keep the interest of the audience on track amidst a plot full or twists and turns.
Wicked debuted on Broadway at the George Gershwin Theatre on October 30, 2003. The show received six Drama Desk Awards and ten 2004 Tony Awards Nominations, winning Tony Awards for Best Actress, Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design. It originally received mixed critical reviews and was panned by the New York Times. In reference to the critics' response Wicked received, Schwartz commented: "What can I say? Reviews are reviews ... I know we divided the critics. We didn't divide the audience [though], and that's what counts." Today Wicked continues to break box office records around the world.
Though composer Schwartz is currently most identified with Wicked as it is his most recent Broadway success, he also wrote the music and lyrics for Godspell, Pippin, The Baker's Wife, Working, The Magic Show and Children Of Eden. At one point Godspell, Pippin and The Magic Show were all running on Broadway concurrently. Schwartz went on to write the lyrics to Charles Strouse's music for Rags, and later collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, for which he received two Academy Awards and a Grammy. He also provided songs for DreamWorks' first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt, for which he won another Academy Award for the song "When You Believe."
Stanford Broadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.
Wicked is scheduled to appear through March 12 - April 6, 2008 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For tickets and/or information on the many diverse offering of the Broward center for the Performing Arts you may contact them at 954-462-0222 or on line at www.browardcenter.org. Tickets are also available in person through Ticketmaster by phone at 954-523-3309 in Broward County, in person at Ticketmaster outlets, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actor's Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.