“Wicked” rode into town for the holidays on Wednesday on a sleigh filled with magic at Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo. The show runs through December 12.
The lyrics and music for “Wicked” were created by Stephen Schwartz, the most successful musical theater American composer from his generation. The musical made its Broadway debut in 2003 and is still running there. The book was written by Winnie Holzman. Previously Schwartz composed “Children of Eden,” “The Magic Show,” “Pippin” and “Godspell,” co-adapted “Working” and wrote the “Rags” lyrics.
The prequel “Wicked” is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire that covers the events from “Wizard of Oz” prior to Dorothy and Toto arriving in Oz. The central concept of Schwartz’s focuses on the relationship between Glinda, who becomes Good Witch of the South, and Elphaba, daughter of the Munchkinland governor and ultimately Wicked Witch of the West. The story, from that premise, branches into several subplots that are related.
What prompts the action is the ever-changing relationship between Elphaba and Glinda. Not all of the changes in attitude between the two is wholly credible, which makes the story line for the musical appear convoluted and at times even contradictory. A majority of the action in the second act is fairly confusing. However the action is kept moving by all of the surprise twists.
However these minor quibbles quickly fade into the light of this impressive spectacle of a show. The Eugene Lee sets are by themselves art installations. Several scenes are dominated by gigantic wheels and small gear cogs, each in brilliant colors. Emerald City is appropriately designated with vivid green lights. The costumes of Susan Hilferty are imaginative, although practically bizarre, which for fairy tale theater is quite acceptable.
Central to ”Wicked’s” enchantment are the brilliant songs from Schwartz. Each one establishes the general mood for a situation while delineating character psychology and motivation as well. The music brings together the divergent materials and bridges some of the logical gaps. Stephen Oremus, music supervisor, oversees 14 musicians that make up the superb pit orchestra.
This second “Wicked” national tour is full of brilliant performances, Both Vicki Noon, playing Elphaba, and Natalie Daradich, playing Glinda, deliver superb performances. The song “Popular” by Daradich is joyful and fun, as is “I’m Not That Girl” by Noon. Marilynn Caskey is an excellent actor in the role of Madame Morrible, while Don Amendolia, in the role of The Wizard, delivers a strong acting performance and sings the song “A Sentimental Man” distinctively well.
This production’s clever story, spectacular sets, engaging music and top notch performers provide guaranteed great entertainment.