Arts District

Wicked Lives Up to the Hype

The show’s two stars and special effects wow the crowd at the Hippodrome.

Wicked has been on every theater nerd’s Broadway bucket list since it debuted in 2003. But we finally got to attend the show on Wednesday night while it was in town at the Hippodrome Theatre. It was well worth the wait.

The renowned musical, by Winnie Holzman with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire’s version is a re-telling of the classic by L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which proves that there are indeed two sides to every story.

The show chronicles the events before and after the arrival of Dorothy in The Land of Oz, telling the story of unlikely friends Elphaba, (better known as the Wicked Witch of the West), and Galinda (known later as Glinda the Good Witch), who struggle with clashing personalities that ultimately lead to Elphaba’s legendary fall from grace. Elphie, as Galinda affectionately nicknames her, is a sort of political activist, fighting against injustice towards the animal Oz. Galinda is the archetypal popular girl who is used to getting everything her way. The two learn to appreciate each other’s differences and become, as the kids say, BFFs, before exposed secrets threaten to ruin their friendship.

The musical scores, comedic timing, visual imagery, and costuming were all fantastic, but the set and special effects alone were enough to leave the audience awestruck. There was a giant, winged dragon with piercing red eyes at the top of the stage, overlooking the crowd, which added a 3-D element to the show. Also, the recreation of the Wizard’s omnipotent persona was just like the movies. No smoke and mirrors here; there was real, giant, golden, animatronic head with moving features for The Great and Powerful Oz.

Texas native Alyssa Fox played the role of Elphaba, and her voice was so powerful, it’s hard to believe it comes out of such a petite person. She belted out the musical’s most popular song “Defying Gravity” without breaking the slightest sweat. The entire audience was on the edge of their seats for that epic last note, waiting to see if she could live up to Idina Menzel’s famous, Broadway version, and the standing ovation and mutterings of “wow” that followed were evidence enough that she blew us all away.

Carrie St. Louis, who played the hilariously bubbly Glinda, had a vocal register that was unparalleled. She executed operatic high notes flawlessly. Pay close attention to her character; she’s an unexpected comedic genius throughout the show. Both Fox and St. Louis’ vocal capabilities were neck and neck with Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, who played Elphaba and Glinda, respectively, in the original Broadway cast. Viewers will not be disappointed.

Speaking of disappointment, it was unfortunate that we weren’t able to catch Ashley Parker Angel (member of the former MTV band boy, O-Town) in action playing the role of Fiyero. His understudy, Travis Taber, had great acting skills, but his vocal ability could not compete with the caliber of musical talent that his cast mates possessed. However, a Baltimore colleague caught the opening night, and her report? Angel stills looks mighty fine in a pair of tight pants.

All of that being said, it’s easy to see why Wicked has been a hit for the past 12 years, and it doesn’t seem like it will be losing steam anytime soon. The show will be playing at the Hippodrome until April 26 and tickets are available here. There are also rumors that Wicked: The Movie will hit theaters in 2016. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.