Wonderful ‘Wicked’ Defies Gravity

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Broadway's most magical musical continues to delight theater fans young and old alike.

Wicked (March 28 – April 22; All ages)
TPAC’s Jackson Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615782-4040 | tpac.org
Showtimes: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $41.50 – $146.50
Editor’s Note: 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. 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).

Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda, traveling by bubble in “Wicked.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Good news! Three-time Tony Award-winning Wicked is still defying gravity, now celebrating its 15th year on Broadway. The spellbinding musical that has flown into TPAC for a month is one of the most spectacular productions of the national tours in recent years.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel of the same name, the show explores the early lives of Galinda/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.

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

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

LOTS OF SUMPTUOUS SUBTEXT

The sheer beauty of Wicked is the heavily multi-layered elements it possesses. During the show’s opening number, “No One Mourns the Wicked,” Galinda poses the ultimate question: “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” It gives the audience much to ponder during the next two hours and 45 minutes.

Powerful subtexts exist throughout the story arc speaking to societal woes heavily evident in our own contemporary world. The most prevalent topics are racism and social injustice. Then there’s the horrific reality of how an uneducated public can be so easily duped by its own government. Elphaba’s so-called fall from grace is a contrived decree that she’s “wicked” because she simply refuses to conform to the government’s corruption.

Also woven into the story is the leading characters’ struggle through opposing viewpoints to a place where they find an unlikely friendship. Then there’s the fun rivalry between them over the same love-interest. It’s all stuff that makes for a dynamic theatrical happening!

Mary Kate Morrissey and Ginna Claire Mason as Elphaba and Glinda in “Wicked.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

WONDERFULLY WICKED TALENT!

Thanks to the tremendously talented Mary Kate Morrissey, Elphaba is brighter and bolder than ever. Morrissey portrays the green girl with an inherent underlying sweetness that endears the audience to her along Elphaba’s entire journey.

Morrissey’s exquisite vocal talent raises the roof on several standout numbers like “The Wizard and I,” “Defying Gravity” and “No Good Deed.” Her immense stage presence is undeniable with how she literally becomes her character. With much passion, she delivers a deliciously romantic rendition of “As Long as You’re Mine” with Jon Robert Hall (the dashing Fiyero). Morrissey wonderfully keeps the audience on an intense, emotional trajectory through “No Good Deed” and “For Good.”

Mary Kate Morrissey casts a spell as Elphaba in “Wicked.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

The equally fabulous Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda deftly graces the stage with impeccable showmanship. Her character also experiences a huge evolution, and Mason 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 stereotypical high-society snob.

Mason plays that well as she does the eventual turn that happens with Glinda. Mason completely embodies the comedic nuances imperative with her character, most notable in her delivery of “Popular.” Mason is also a gifted singer. Her superb soprano soars off the stage all the way up into the rafters.

Additional cast kudos go to the aforementioned Jon Robert Hall as Fiyero along with Jody Gelb as Madame Morrible. Hall delivers the best portrayal of Fiyero since Norbert Leo Butz originated the role on Broadway. The tall and handsome Hall expertly delivers the playful side of his not-too-serious character, then dives deeply into his romantic pursuit while falling in love with Elphaba. His clean tenor is a pure delight to one’s ears.

Gelb has lots of experience playing Madame Morrible. She’s most recently played the character on Broadway and has also given life to the sinister sorceress on both national tours as well as in the San Francisco company in 2010. Gelb is delightfully devilish with her delivery, adding lots of color to the story in a way few others before her have achieved.

Perhaps the family-friendliest musical to ever grace the stage, Wicked serves up amazing theatrical awe. This chemistry among the cast is so strong that their characters pull the audience into the journey with them.

Through and through, Wicked is sure to delight you and your kids. It’s a great story with a fantastic musical backdrop. It’s undeniably 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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