Wicked wows audiences in first week
From the first glimpse of the set, complete with a gigantic mechanical dragon and a large-scale map of Oz, to the initial appearance of the somewhat creepy flying monkeys, Thursday night’s performance of Wicked promised to be a hit. The house was packed and full of excitement as the orchestra began to play and the cast began to sing the first notes of “No One Mourns the Wicked.”
With a show like Wicked, which is popular on every stage on which it is performed, expectations are high, especially for anyone who is familiar with the show and the original cast. The cast of the Pittsburgh show does not disappoint.
Galinda (Katie Rose Clarke), who later changes her name to Glinda in an effort to show her supposed dedication to Animal rights in Oz, masterfully portrays the emotions present throughout the show. Despite the fact that her character is usually portrayed as bubbly and cheerful, Clarke manages to show the other side of the character, the side who doesn’t hate the “Wicked Witch” and who was, in fact, unhappy at the news of her friend’s death.
Galinda and Elphaba (Carmen Cusack) meet on their first day at Shiz, a boarding school in Oz. The two are completely different in their mannerisms and upbringing: Galinda is used to having her way and is bright, cheerful, and popular, while Elphaba is green and dreary. Through a twist of fate, the girls are forced to room together, and they describe their hatred of each other in the song “What Is This Feeling,” in which they write letters to their parents describing the problem with the other. While Galinda tries to think of a nice way to describe Elphaba, the latter firmly puts her reasons into words, declaring that her roommate is “blonde.”
In Elphaba’s first solo of the show, “The Wizard and I,” she sings of her hopes for the future, deciding to work toward becoming the Wizard’s adviser after the headmistress of Shiz, Madame Morrible (Myra Lucretia Taylor), informs her that the magic abilities she has are not a curse, but a gift, one that the Wizard would appreciate. Cusack starts the show off well with her strong voice and acting, creating the expectation for a stellar performance throughout the show, an expectation she fulfills 100 percent.
It is after the girls are forced together that another important character, Fiyero (Cliffton Hall), rolls out onto the stage in his carriage. Fiyero is a fun-loving guy who gets kicked out of most of the schools he attends. After making a crack at Elphaba’s skin, he meets Galinda and launches into his first song, “Dancing Through Life,” in which he explains his philosophy on living.
It is after this that Galinda and Elphaba become friends. Galinda, believing it her duty to be nice to Elphaba, tries to give her a makeover during “Popular.” This leads to the girls taking a trip together to see the Wizard in the Emerald City in “One Short Day.” Elphaba sees that the Wizard isn’t who she thought he was and she rushes away.
In the climax and first act’s finale, Elphaba resolves to break out on her own and work to save the Animals from the Wizard in “Defying Gravity.” This scene outshines most of the others in the show because this is when Elphaba gains confidence in herself and her abilities. The lighting and effects used in this scene are particularly powerful. When Elphaba flies above the stage, lighting forces her to be the focus and adds to the sense that she is powerful enough to overcome the obstacles set in front of her. This is also the scene where Elphaba is first called the “Wicked Witch” by her former headmistress, Madame Morrible.
The second act shows much of what we know from the original Wizard of Oz storyline. Through the various scenes with Elphaba, the audience is shown the origins of the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, as well as a brief story behind the Wicked Witch of the East and Elphaba’s anger at Glinda for giving Dorothy the jeweled shoes after her death.
When Elphaba returns to the Emerald City to try to release the flying monkeys, she runs into the Wizard, who tries again to convince her to join his side. Once she learns that he was the cause for the removal of Dr. Dillamond (Tom Flynn), one of her professors at Shiz and a Goat, she quickly remembers the reason for hating the Wizard in the first place.
Fiyero decides to leave Glinda for Elphaba, and the two share a duet before Elphaba leaves because she senses that her sister is in trouble. Elphaba’s path is downhill from there, as Fiyero follows her and is captured by the Wizard’s guards so that she could escape. After this, she is hunted down by angry Ozians and the melting incident occurs.
The show closes with a powerful scene that mirrors the opening number, only this time the audience knows why Glinda didn’t look as cheerful as she claimed to be at the news of Elphaba’s death.
The whole show was a success. From the costumes, which managed not only to bring the audience into Oz, but also to add emphasis on particular traits for each character, to the set, which used various effects to achieve a sense of fantasy and reality rolled into one, every element was executed perfectly to create a truly wonderful show.