For more than ten years, WICKED has been dazzling audiences on Broadway. And now on its 2nd National Tour, it is back in Costa Mesa at the SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS from February 17-March 6.
We not only had the opportunity to be invited to see the show on Thursday night, but we we also had the chance a few days earlier to take a rare behind the scenes look at the load in for the show. I didn’t realize how excited I was to step back into OZ until I saw the set pieces being put together including the tick-tock dragon. It stage gave me chills like I was seeing it for the first time.
This tour also does a great job of making the show feel fresh and new. One can argue that after ten years the show could feel stale, and most people would have seen some sort of production of the show, whether it be overseas, Broadway, or on Tour. Yet to my surprise, I overheard lots of people who had never seen the show before!
There are new staging and effects sprinkled in that breathe new life into the show. I won’t spoil the surprises but between costume updates, and great new projections it definitely feels more like its first year touring and not a thirteen year old show. Some of this credit has to be given to the producers for not messing with success and changing the show too much. The second element of note would be the stellar cast. They sang like it was their first-ever performance–with gusto and excitement.
Emily Koch plays Elphaba. She is coming directly from the Broadway cast where she was a swing. One of my biggest MUST-HAVES for anyone who steps into the role as Elphie, is how they make it their own and not a complete copy of Idina Menzel. Emily definitely did that. She put her unique touch on being green. Her “Wizard and I” was breathtaking, and it while I was surprised when she handled differently some key notes in the original songs, it felt fresh and not forced. She made the audience fall in love with her and that’s exactly what needs to happen.
When you think of Glinda, you think of someone who is bubbly, blond, a little naive, and of course perky and full of herself. Amanda Jane Cooper captures that with such ease, grace and charm, it’s infectious. While her voice isn’t necessarily as strong as Kristin Chenoweth or Megan Hilty she bring a uniqueness to the role that is great and yet for me she was the stand out performance of the evening. She brings fresh comedic performance to Glinda, that reminded me a lot of Elle Woods. It’s tempting to copy her fantastic predecessors but she crafts a character that’s true to the DNA of the show and yet is totally her own. Not only was she great with comedic timing, she commanded the stage with her emotional “Thank Goodness.” I could listen to her sing that over and over.
What stood out the most for me is how the supporting cast was also extremely talented and fit their roles. Wendy Worthington as Madame Morrible is terrifying in a great way, possibly the closest parallel to the book that I’ve ever seen or heard. She is phenomenal and she has Disney connection… she plays the Nanny in the TOWER OF TERROR made-for-tv movie. Stuart Zagnit is the first Wizard that I have have seen that actually makes you feel emotion for the character. He was absolutely brilliant.
Jake Boyd as Fiyero was again also perfect for his role. Tall, lanky, exactly the kind of foreshadowing that is perfect for the role. It definitely doesn’t hurt that he is also dreamy and his voice blends with Amanda’s perfectly. While it was only the second performance at Segerstrom, we did end up seeing an understudy for Nessarose. But thankfully, Lauren Haughton really shined in the supporting role as the Wicked Witch of East.
Whether it’s your first time or tenth time this production of WICKED is not to miss.Thirteen years later, WICKED is still my favorite musical, and it was really fun to be surrounded by people that have never seen it before. This production made it feel like I was seeing it for the first time, and I had goosebumps throughout.
WICKED is playing at SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS from February 17-March 6, and there will be a lottery Two and Half hours before each performance for $25 tickets.