The award-winning musical “Wicked” made it’s Vancouver premiere to a packed audience this week. I was lucky enough to score tickets to one of the first few shows and it didn’t disappoint. The whole experience in one word was “captivating“. “Wicked” is the untold story of the witches of Oz. Long before Dorothy and Toto crashed in Munchkin Land, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West were actually BFFs. Wicked tells their remarkable odyssey on how they met and became unlikely friends to the characters immortalized in “The Wizard of Oz“.
Let me preface my review by saying, I’ve seen the production before. Brian and I were fortunate enough to watch the West End production in London a few years ago. We were enchanted with all the sights and sounds of the musical. What made it even more magical was the fact the characters spoke in British accents. When I found out Broadway Across Canada was bringing the production to Vancouver, I had to see it.
What impressed me the most about the touring production was how much it resembled the big budget set of the West End production. Despite it’s smaller scale, the entertainment value was equally matched. In fact, the smaller venue made it more intimate and made it more accessible to feel part of the action. It was far easier to get lost in the moment. It’s been a few years since I saw the production, but for some reason the touring North American version was far more comedic. Perhaps, the Brits incorporated colloquialisms that I didn’t comprehend.
As with any musical, it’s about the performers. We all know the source material is fantastic and the production value phenomenal. If the actors aren’t able to convey the emotion needed to make the musical numbers believable, then the whole thing is an epic fail. Not surprisingly, the cast was stellar.
Anne Brummel who plays Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, masterfully plays the character from young ingenue to animal activist. Her solo moments on the iconic “Defying Gravity” can give Idina Menzel (Broadway original) a run for her money. She’s that good. Natalie Daradich, who plays Glinda the witch also does a solid job of stepping into Kristin Chenoweth’s shoes. I will say she pulled off the comedic moments perfectly and had the audience laughing their heads off. Vocally speaking, she started off a bit shaky (IMHO), but really came into in by the second number.
Other standouts include Zach Hanna who plays Boq who is the caretaker to Elphaba’s wheelchair bound sister and David Nathan Perlow who perfectly embodies the love interest, Fiyero. Both actors have a long list of acting credits behind them. Hanna has worked on “Altar Boyz”, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Tommy”, while Perlow spent the past year on Broadway’s “La Cage Aux Folles”. Special shout outs also go to all the dancers and background cast. Without them, “Wicked” wouldn’t be as spellbinding.
If you’ve never seen “Wicked” and a fan of “The Wizard of Oz”, you simply must check it out. You won’t be disappointed. The way the musical masterfully incorporates the story we all have known and loved for years is magically perfect. It’s not only interesting to see Glinda and Elphaba’s relationship at the beginning, but its humorously fascinating to see how the Tin Man, Scarecrow and other Oz characters came about. During its entire Vancouver run, the production is holding a lottery that gives a few lucky winners a chance to see “Wicked” for only $25. AMAZEBALLS. Click here for details.
Wicked Production Notes
WICKED, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Disney’s Enchanted, Academy Award winner for Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt) and book by Winnie Holzman (“My So Called Life,” “Once And Again” and “thirty something”), is based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire.
WICKED features set design by Tony® Award winning Eugene Lee (Ragtime, Show Boat, Candide, Sweeney Todd), costume design by Tony® winner Susan Hilferty (Spring Awakening, Into the Woods, Assassins), lighting design by Tony nominee® Kenneth Posner (Tony® Award winner for The Coast of Utopia, Hairspray) and sound design by Tony Meola (The Lion King). Stephen Oremus is the show’s music director. Orchestrations are by William David Brohn, with dance arrangements by James Lynn Abbott.