by Mike Mackenzie on October 19, 2006
You can call it anything you want, but when you boil it down, Wicked is spectacular.
“No one mourns the Wicked.” It’s the title of the opening song in Wicked, which just began a return engagement at the Canon Theatre in Toronto, and the only one who will mourn are those who don’t catch it while it’s here.
The show has been a hit everywhere, including on tour, Broadway, Chicago, and now, London’s West End. It’s easy to see why so many people are enthralled with it. While it lost out the Best Musical Tony Award to another hit show, Avenue Q, that hasn’t stopped people from flocking to it.
The story is considered a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard Of Oz, when Elphaba (also known as the Wicked Witch of The West) and Glinda (The Good Witch) become roommates at Shiz University. They become friends despite their differences, and their friendship continues through times of struggle, as Elphaba becomes more and more aware of the corruption in the Emerald City, namely with the Wizard. As Glinda becomes the new face of Oz, Elphaba must lurk in the shadows, seeking to right the wrong.
Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman have created a show with catchy, show stopping numbers, strong ballads, and gut wrenching love songs that each seem to have their own unique purpose and style in the show. This is one of Schwartz’s finest scores, by far.
Megan Hilty is perfect as Glinda, and brings her own unique style and personality to the role. Shoshana Bean is equally perfect as Elphaba, and there are few performers out there who could match her voice and performance. Bean was part of the premiere production of Wicked in San Francisco, and it’s thrilling to have her back.
P.J. Benjamin brings his own unique flair to the role of the Wizard and is delightful, and Alma Cuervo is ominous and menacing as Madame Morrible, the young ladies’ professor at Shiz.
Cliffton Hall soars as Fiyero, Jennifer Waldman is heartbreaking as Nessarose, and Josh Lamon is wonderful as Boq.
Joe Mantello helms the production, as he did with the original Broadway cast, and he delivers on every level. He has crafted a well thought-out piece, and directs with an honest and true hand. He, along with his actors, knows exactly when to play the humour, and when to delve deeper into the darker side of the story, and the pacing with which he has directed the show makes it fly by.
Eugene Lee has done it again with his amazing sets, which fill up the cavernous stage at the Canon Theatre, and Susan Hilferty’s colorful and creative costumes are delightful, setting the tone for each scene and wowing the audience time and time again.
Wicked is a throwback to the era of “spectacle” musicals, like Les Miserables and The Phantom Of The Opera, but with a newfound audience. It is the type of show that draws an eclectic group of theatre goers, and is appropriate for a Wizard Of Oz fan of any age. You are sure to laugh, perhaps cry, and you’ll leave the theatre thinking about the politics and the social commentary of the piece, and I guarantee, you’ll never look at the Wizard Of Oz the same way again.
Some shows are meant to be seen once. Some shows deserve a second look, and in the case of Wicked, now playing at the Canon Theatre, I’d see it again and again, and so should you.
By Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire
Now playing at the Canon Theatre, Toronto, until December 31st, 2006.