I didn’t want to like Wicked. I really didn’t. Those theatre kids who love Wicked are always grouped together as a stereotype that I did not want to be associated. However, I now know why Wicked is spoken so highly of. Every aspect of the production flowed together to create something powerful and beautiful. Having never seen the show before, I was expecting a cookie-cutter-copy of what I’ve heard from the Broadway Cast Recording, and instead I got something entirely different, and, frankly, better. Each actor’s unique take on their characters made them each stand out in their own way and it was exciting to watch because I was continuously pleasantly surprised by each character choice.
These unique choices were particularly executed by Ginna Claire Mason (Glinda) and Jessica Vosk (Elphaba) who, vocally, approached their characters completely differently than Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who originated the roles on Broadway. Vosk’s addition of riffing in several of Elphaba’s songs was a new approach that would not work for just anyone, however her riffs were so tight and controlled that it added even more sass to her character and her willingness to set herself apart from the typical Elphaba made her the strongest performer on the stage. Not to discredit Mason, however, who also created a fun and loving Glinda that perfectly complimented Vosk’s Elphaba. Initially, her breath support was weak and her high notes were sharp so my bar for her was set low from the start. However, after the show had gone on for a while she gradually got stronger and stronger and ended up being one of the most entertaining characters. Her approach at the character was very “Elle Woods” but it totally worked and was very fun to watch.
Equally impressive to the vocals was the tech. I have a deep appreciation for good tech because I have experienced first hand how much hard work goes into it. The lighting, particularly, was beautiful and added so much visual pleasure to the already gorgeous production. The clear standout moment of the show was the end of “Defying Gravity” when Elphaba flew for the first time and the lighting looked the way it looks when you hold a crystal up to the sun. The only way I can describe it is that it looked like energy was exploding out of Elphaba, which is appropriate because, in a sense, that is exactly what was happening. That, combined with Elphaba’s enormous cape projected behind her made for a dazzling and powerful movement that left the entire audience stunned.
Overall, Universal Stage Productions’ Wicked was beautiful and powerful and flawlessly executed the importance of not judging a book by its cover. While specific details such as breath support or intonation could have been improved, the bigger details such as lighting design and unique character choices ultimately overpowered that and made for a stunning and powerful production. I did see many younger children at the show, and I would warn that it can get scary at times (the flying monkeys for example freaked me out) but as long as parents are aware of that, I would highly recommend going to Wicked at the Orpheum Theatre before May 14!