Theater Review: Wicked

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The magical musical Wicked is at TPAC's Jackson Hall through Sunday, April 20.

Wicked (March 26 – April 20; Ages 8 and older)
TPAC’s Jackson Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 or tpac.org
Showtimes: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 and 8 p.m., Sun 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $40 – $145
Editor’s Note: Remaining tickets are limited, but TPAC offers a few seats at $25 a pop at every performance through a random drawing. If you’re feeling lucky, get there two-and-a-half hours prior to curtain and put your name in the hat (er, cauldron). If your name is drawn, you can purchase up to two orchestra level tickets at the discounted rate (cash only, and you must show ID).

Good news! Three-time Tony Award-winning Wicked is alive and well, celebrating its 10th anniversary on Broadway! The spellbinding musical that’s currently at TPAC is by far the best of the national tours I’ve seen during the past several years.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel of the same name, the show explores the early lives of Glinda (the so-called Good Witch of the North) and Elphaba (the alleged Wicked Witch of the West) from The Wizard of Oz — long before Dorothy Gale blew in from Kansas, came crashing down in Munchkinland and sported those infamous sparkling slippers while trotting down the Yellow Brick Road.

The only thing shining brighter than the Emerald City itself is Winnie Holzman’s book and Stephen Schwartz’s unforgettable musical score. Add to that magnificent, seamlessly changing sets, dazzling costumes, spectacular lighting, bewitching special effects and an extremely talented cast that powerfully delivers on all counts, and therein exists the magic and majesty that encompasses a truly fabulous Broadway-blessed production!

The stage adaptation does take a few artistic liberties in contrast to Maguire’s great novel. And those are wonderfully executed on stage, with particular nods to the musical’s evolution of Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion … those elements are particularly fun for kids to experience.

The sheer beauty of Wicked in stage form is the heavily multi-layered elements it possesses. During the show’s opening number, “No One Mourns the Wicked,” Glinda poses the ultimate question: “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Powerful subtexts exist throughout the story arc of this show that speak to societal woes heavily evident in the contemporary world in which we live. The most prevalent is racism and social injustice along with the horrific reality of how the uneducated hoi polloi can be so easily duped by it’s own government … to the point that anyone courageous enough to stand against said corruption and who refuses to conform is labeled “wicked,” and the masses believe it just because that’s what they are told.

Wicked - Emerald CityThis particular production of Wicked boasts the most amazing representation of Elphaba I’ve ever experienced, thanks to the brilliantly talented Alison Luff. Luff is off-the-charts superb vocally, evidenced by several standout numbers like “The Wizard and I,” “Defying Gravity” and “No Good Deed.” Her immense stage talent is undeniable with how she literally becomes her character. Of all the productions I’ve seen, Luff’s the first one who endeared me to Elphaba to the verge of tears in Act II. She delivers the most believable, romantic and passionate version of “As Long as You’re Mine” with Nick Adams (who’s also a hugely gifted singer) as the dashing Fiyero, and she keeps the audience on an intense, emotional journey through “No Good Deed” and “For Good.”

The equally fabulous Gina Beck as Glinda deftly graces the stage with impeccable showmanship. Her character also experiences a huge evolution, and Beck technically has a harder role making the audience fall in love with her character, because hers is really the bad girl at the forefront … the typical high-society snobbish bigot. Beck plays that well as she does the eventual turn that happens with her character. Beck completely embodies the comedic nuances imperative with her character, most notable in her delivery of the number, “Popular.” And by the way, Beck owns some amazing, rock-you-off-your-seat vocal chops as well! She has a beautiful, soaring voice meant to bellow off the stage way up into the rafters as it succinctly achieves.

The on-stage chemistry among the cast is the most incredible I’ve seen of any production of Wicked, whether on Broadway or a touring show. The cast members work so well together that they breathe such believable life into their characters that the audience feels like it’s on the journey with them instead of merely watching from afar.

Through and through, Wicked is sure to delight you and your kids. It’s a great story with a fantastic musical backdrop. It is Broadway’s best! So do yourself a favor and go experience it, then enjoy your departure from Jackson Hall feeling like you, too, can defy gravity!

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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