Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Wicked is back in Cleveland for the third time. This is the on-going tour, which has been on and off the bus for more than five years.
Wicked tells the story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy and the other characters from The Wizard of Oz came on the scene. The musical is based on the 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory Maguire. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman. L. Frank Baum (1856-1919) wrote "The Wizard of Oz" before Maguire wrote "Wicked." In the novel, Maguire attempts to explain why the Wicked Witch is wicked.
The story begins with the birth of Elphaba (Donna Vivino). The baby is born greena light frog green. THe parents are so upset with this strange looking child that the father leaves. With a new husband, the mother learns she is expecting a second child. Unfortunately, the second baby, Nessarose (Brynn O'Malley), is born with legs that will not support her when she attempts to walk. The two daughters are sent to a boarding school, where Elphaba is to care for Nessarose. Madame Morrible (Randy Danson), the school's Head Mistress, shuffles the room assignments until Elphaba and Nessarose are separated. Elphaba is to share a room with Glinda (Chandra Lee Schwartz). From this moment on, the two women are friends and enemies. Elphaba becomes the wicked witch and Glinda, the good witch.
Elphaba blames some of her problems on being green and the fact that she doesn't know the identity of her father. At the boarding school, she launches a campaign to keep animals as teachers. One of the best teachers in the school is Dr. Dillamond (Paul Slade Smith), a goat. Except for an occasional "baaaa," he is a normal (yet, unusual looking) teacher. Dillamond is humiliated when he discovers scrawled on the blackboard in his classroom, the words "animals should be seen and not heard."
A major plot of the show is the journey of the two women to see the Wizard. Elphaba is unhappy the flying monkeys are caged and launches an animal-rights campaign to free them.
In another scene, The Wizard of Oz says, "the best way too bring folks together is to give them a really good enemy." This line and others should make any political-wanna-be stop and think. The show is political enough to get many of us to vote for Wicked and the wonderfully wicked Good Witch and the woefully kind Wicked Witch.
Of course, any good story has a love interest and for the two witches, the love interest is Fiyero (Richard H. Blake). Fiyero manages to win both of the witches. Glinda, who always gets her way, expects men to fall for her. But, when Fiyero falls for the apple-green Elphaba, Glinda seeks revenge.
As Wicked moves toward the end of its story, hints of "The Wizard of Oz" move across the stage. For example, Glinda makes a reference to "That little girl and her dog, DoDo."
Eugene Lee received the Tony Award for the Broadway set for Wicked. The touring production sets are based on his original design. Susan Hilferty designed the stylized Victorian costumes for the Broadway production as well as the costumes for this touring production.
The cast is excellent. The voices are glorious. The script is much too long. With a 20-minute intermission, the current production runs three hours. The show is a crowd favoritehowever, the crowd is in the pre-teen, early-teen set. How can so many youngsters skip school? In truth, they may learn more watching a touring show than they learn in the classroom.
This production continues in Cleveland through December 13, then moves on to Columbus, Ohio, after Christmas.
Up next in the PlayhouseSquare will be The Great Lakes Theater Festival's production of A Christmas Carol, which will run December 4 - 23 in the Ohio Theater.
- David Ritchey