Theater Review: 'Wicked'

By Smith, Michael | Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), June 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

Theater Review: 'Wicked'


Smith, Michael, Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK)


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Labels can be misleading and dangerous -- like calling someone "Wicked."

What makes them wicked? Were they born that way? How do you know they're wicked? Did someone tell you that and you chose to believe them?

That simple conceit was a moment of inspiration that led Gregory Maguire to write a fantasy book about the Wicked Witch of the West. His novel and its universal themes further inspired the musical "Wicked," a near-perfect piece of entertainment that opened this week at Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

The Broadway touring company production that I saw on Thursday night -- the first night that press was invited for review purposes - - is also near-perfect.

This will be a magical three weeks of performances that will thrill Tulsa audiences during its run in the Chapman Music Hall.

The lead performances are exceptional. The songs, the comedy and the emotional expectations are all on-target. The choreography is tight, the set design is exquisite, and the costumes are crazy- cool.

I won't apply the label of "perfect" because there are minor issues here and there, qualifying as quibbles. This Celebrity Attractions presentation of "Wicked" is a fantastic production of the Broadway blockbuster for all ages.

For young ones receiving an introduction to live theater to first- timers looking for a twisted take on the "Wizard of Oz" legend to longtime fans: Tell your friends that you saw "Wicked," and watch them turn green with envy.

I first saw the musical five years ago, and on Thursday I again concluded that the show's first act is one of the truly exceptional live theater experiences.

In the Tony Award-winning adaptation of Maguire's novel by composer Stephen Schwartz and writer Winnie Holzman, we first witness the birth of Elphaba, whose head-to-toe green skin tint qualifies her as unusual even in the land of Oz, where animals can talk and a wizard reigns.

As a new student at Oz's Shiz University, she stands out as an outcast -- but a vocal one, calling out those students from munchkins to Emerald City locals who follow in the popularity and shallow thinking of people like Glinda, the perky blonde beloved by all students.

Of course, she stands out for another reason that again makes her a loner: She has an uncanny command of sorcery that attracts the attention of those who she believes see her as gifted but see her only as having a power they wish to control.

Any production of "Wicked" will ultimately rise or fall on the performances of Elphaba and Glinda, and we are fortunate to watch two wickedly talented women.

Emma Hunton stars as Elphaba, with about three months under green skin in this role, and her rich voice is complemented by comedic chops solid enough to let her duel with the exceptional Gina Beck, whose Glinda is -- I'll say it -- perfect.

As good as she is, it's impossible to not compare her with local girl Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the role on Broadway. But Beck has made the role her own.

She is a winning combination of Barbie meets Disney princess from a distance, until she opens her mouth with proclamations like "Isn't it wonderful to see me? …

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