Wicked is one of those “modern classics” that everyone talks about. Even people who don’t know theatre know about Wicked. You can debate all day long the quality of the writing or the music, but it’s a show that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s so popular that there are NEVER discounts for tickets to see it in New York. On top of no discounts, tickets are ridiculously expensive. Wicked is the show that isn’t in any danger of closing. Because of this, I have never actually seen Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre in New York. I have been inside the lobby once, and I can only imagine how amazing it is to see on stage there. However, due to my budgetary constraints, I’ve never purchased actual tickets to see the show there.
In 2009 Wicked came to Nashville on tour. This was the first time I had ever seen the show, even though the cast recording had become a staple in my house. I paid an ungodly amount of money for orchestra seats and went expecting to be blown away. I was.
I am always looking for a deal, but when I heard that Wicked was returning to Nashville this year, I had to get tickets. Since I saw the show the first time, I’ve wanted to take my younger sister. I knew she’d love it and I wouldn’t pass up a chance to see Wicked a second time. When I was researching ticket prices due to the different prices for different show times (for example, mid-week performances are often slightly cheaper than a weekend performance) I discovered that Nashville was having a random Thursday matinee. When I checked on the price, I discovered it drastically cheaper than the weekend shows. By drastically, I’m talking around 40% cheaper. I bought them immediately.
This tour of Wicked was just as fantastic as I remember the other one being. For those of you who don’t know the story of Wicked, their tag line says “So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.” Basically, this is the “true” story of the witches of Oz. It focuses on Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West (whose name, we learn, is Elphaba). These polar opposite girls meet as young people In finishing school and despite their initial misgivings, become good friends.
As the story progresses, you discover how Elphaba becomes “wicked” and how Glinda manages to become Glinda the Good. Along with that, you learn all about the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, the flying monkeys, and how the views of the masses can often be clouded by the way that something is portrayed by those in positions of power.
For this tour, Glinda was played by Tiffany Haas. Her Glinda was chipper, hyper and generally lovable, as are most Glindas, but Haas added a level of depth that I didn’t see in the last Glinda I saw. Haas took the time to let you know that she wasn’t all air and bubbles in her head, but was simply trying to keep things in her world in the neat, orderly fashion to which she was accustomed. I loved her interpretation of “Popular.” But her moment of heartfelt pain was the reprise of “I’m Not that Girl.”
Anne Brummel is cast in this tour cast as Elphaba, but I saw Christine Dwyer in her place. Ms. Dwyer was spectacular. I’ve always felt a connection to Elphaba, and I was overjoyed to see Dwyer’s interpretation of one of my favorite characters. Of course, with any Elphaba, her shining moment was “Defying Gravity,” but she was such a likable Elphaba, that it’s hard to pick one moment of her performance that was the best. Vocally, she was superb, and her chemistry with Haas was fantastic. I will say that both times I’ve seen Wicked, I’ve been left physically shaking from the adrenaline that “Defying Gravity” sends through my system (right before intermission, of course).
One of my favorite characters this show was Nessarose. Better known to some of you as the Wicked Witch of the East. Nessarose was played with great gusto by Emily Ferranti. I love her ability to transform Nessarose from the slightly outcast younger sister of Elphaba, to the sad, desperate character that ends up living on in infamy as the Wicked Witch of the East. Nessarose is so desperate to find love that she risks, and loses, everything she loves for someone who doesn’t love her back.
Playing Fiyero, the love interest of both Glinda and Elphaba, Michael McCorry Rose was in for David Nathan Perlow. When Michael McCorry Rose first came out on stage, in Fiyero’s infamous “Dancing Through Life” number, I was a little worried. I thought it was a little shaky (not vocally), but he turned it around quickly. It was a quick change to a confidant, slightly cocky, Fiyero that took over. And I loved seeing the relationship develop between Fiyero and Glinda and Fiyero and Elphaba.
Other notable cast members were Madame Morrible, school matron, and eventually press secretary to the Wizard, played with cunning and spectacular evil by Jody Gelb, and the Wizard himself, played with great matter of fact attitude by Don Amendolia. Gelb and Amendolia made a great team as Madame Morrible and the Wizard on their quest to “keep the peace” and essentially control the citizens of Oz.
The music, as always, was so beautifully written (and performed) that you are sucked in from the first number and you are rooting for both Glinda and Elphaba throughout the entire show. Costuming is top notch (and personally, if you can sit as close as possible, to see the details, you should), and the book is snappy and full of comedy. There are lines in the show that still pop in my head from time to time at random moments (that’s a sure sign that you’ve got a good show on your hands).
Because this story is written so well, it can make perfect sense to a child and teach them about being different, standing up for what you believe in, and friendship, while having a deeper meaning to an adult, showing social injustice, media portrayal, and the way that those who see issues often just sit by and let them happen to avoid causing problems for themselves.
There are so many little things about this show that can touch almost any person. I’d advise almost anyone to go see it. Especially if you have a friend who isn’t exactly a “theatre person.” This show could make almost anyone a fan of theatre. You can still catch Wicked on its Nashville tour stop through November 6th. You can get tickets on the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s website, or by calling the box office at 615-782-4040. And if you are in the area, you can even “lotto” this show. Basically, you show up 2 ½ hour before the show and put your name in. Two hours before, they draw names for $25 orchestra seats. You risk not getting seats if you do this, but if you’re feeling lucky, it’s worth a shot (let me know if you win!).