Live Theater, Live Theater Reviews
Theatre Review: WICKED Celebrates 20 Years, Returns to The Fabulous Fox
The fourth-longest running show on Broadway (surpassing Cats just last week), Wicked makes its return to St. Louis for the 7th time since opening in 2003.
Playing The Fabulous Fox Theatre through May 7, the “Popular” musical is a prequel (based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire) to one of the most beloved stories of all time – L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, Wicked brings us back to before Dorothy or Todo ever follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. We learn the story of how Glinda (JENNAFER NEWBERRY) and Elphaba (LISSA DEGUZMAN) met at Shiz University, and how the latter would become known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Things aren’t always as they seem, and there are two sides to every story. The musical does a great job of showing how facts can be misconstrued and lost to time and misunderstandings.
The voices on this tour are phenomenal, showcasing the vocal talents of the cast – especially its two leads. Newberry shines as Glinda, who gives a delightfully hilarious rendition of “Popular,” while deGuzman captivates the audience with numbers like “I’m Not That Girl” and “No Good Deed.” The two actors come together for several fantastic songs like the comedic “What Is This Feeling,” the upbeat and hopeful “One Short Day,” and the powerful, show-stopping end of ACT I – “Defying Gravity.” You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the audience who doesn’t get chills from deGuzman’s powerful singing during the unforgettable number.
The charming Christian Thompson plays it cool as Fiyero, a prince who becomes the object of Glinda’s attention when he arrives at Shiz (“Dancing Through Life”). The actor does a great job exhibiting a carefree attitude, and when things get serious in Oz he naturally fills the heroic role. He and deGuzman have great chemistry as their characters navigate their feelings for one another (“As Long As You’re Mine”).
The tremendous cast of Wicked also features Natalie Venetia Belcon as Madame Morrible, Timothy Shew as The Wizard, Boise Holmes as Doctor Dillamond, Tara Kostmayer as Nessarose, and Kyle McArthur as Boq.
The show offers plenty of spectacle, as the audience is transported to the steampunk-inspired world of Oz designed by Eugene Lee (who passed away in February at the age of 83, RIP). The clockwork backdrop and huge, mechanical dragon that overlooks the stage are glorious setpieces that draw you into this fantastical world. Dazzling costumes, talking animals, and beautifully detailed sets accent the vibrant musical.
There is no question as to why Wicked is one of the most popular musicals of all time, with unforgettable performances, memorable songs, and a story that audiences of all ages will love. And while it is fun to spot all the clever references to the books and movies that came before it, the show is more than strong enough to stand on its own. I have no doubt that newcomers will have a great time at the show, and would even make a great introduction to the wonderful world of imagination that awaits before them. Whether it is your first time or one of many, there’s always endless fun to be had in the land of OZ.
See Wicked now through May 7 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis. For tickets and more information, visit fabulousfox.com.