Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Wicked' Tour Draws Powerful Real-World Connections

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Wicked' Tour Draws Powerful Real-World Connections

Article excerpt

THEATER REVIEW

Nearly 10 years ago, "Wicked" was the first professional musical I ever saw. I've seen it five times since then, and I know the cast recording by heart. And though the show itself hasn't changed, watching it now has a new meaning.

"Wicked," based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, is billed as the untold story of the witches of Oz, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman. It tells the backstory to the Wicked Witch of the West, a fiery, smart woman named Elphaba, who has an extraordinary untapped talent -- and the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, a bubbly and exceptionally popular young woman -- before they became "good" and "wicked."

The smash Broadway hit has toured at the Straz Center in Tampa several times, but the current cast is worth seeing as the production returns for a monthlong run. The current political climate lends the story and its characters a sharp relevancy it hasn't held in the past. Now, "Wicked" doesn't feel so much like fantasy, but something that could be very real as it depicts mass hysteria as the population of Oz believes lies told by unqualified government officials and ignores the injustice and prejudice around them.

The anthem "Defying Gravity" remains popular because all of us want to believe we would have the courage to resist when presented with an easy way out of a moral dilemma. Elphaba and Glinda take different paths that present their own hardships, just as American citizens of different political opinions have had to make their own choices.

And yet, there is still room in "Wicked" for laughs and humor. Amanda Jane Cooper delivers a charming performance as Glinda, adding extra flounces to the role while also displaying remarkable control over her voice. She brings you from Glinda's oblivious beginnings to heartache and loneliness in Act II with a finesse I've never seen in a Glinda before. …

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