I took a whirlwind adventure, landing in a place where animals speak, a city is made of shades of green, witches go by broom, bubble, and wheelchair, but most importantly, people break into song and dance. I am of course, referring to Wicked, the decade-old Broadway hit, whose 2nd National Tour has landed in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Wicked is based off the best selling novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire, which takes the infamous Wizard of Oz story by L. Frank Baum, and turns it on its head. Through the power of musical storytelling, this piece of theatre explores the origin stories of Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West. What does it mean to be good, wicked, or wonderful, and why are they labelled as such?
Wicked goes back- way back. We meet university-aged Galinda (later, Glinda the Good) and Elphaba (later, Wicked Witch of the West), and see them on their intertwining journey to discover and own their identities, becoming more aware of the good, bad, and ugly in the world along the way.
Laurel Harris plays the Elphaba Thropp, the beautifully tragic girl with a heart of gold beneath a hard shell forged by a life spent ridiculed because of her green skin. Harris is highly impressive as the show’s main character, succeeding in making Elphaba feel like a reluctantly heroic outcast. In Act 1, the gates were open for me to empathize with her, but never with pity. In Act 2, you can’t help but root for her.Not to mention, she has a silky smooth voice that washes over your ears with rich, rich tone. She also really goes for those vocal riffs, making the auditory journey exciting for those who have heard the Wicked soundtrack hundreds of times.
G(a)linda Upland is played by Kara Lindsay. While Harris is no stranger to Wicked, Kara Lindsay is new to the role, having recently left Newsies on Broadway, where she was a member of the original Broadway cast. Her comedic timing as Glinda is excellent and the changes in her voice when speaking is truly impressive, helping show the contrast of the facade and the inner self. Lindsay sings all her parts with an air of ease and bubbliness, that make her a perfect fit for the role. But it’s her rich mid to mid-upper range that I can never get enough of.
The supporting cast includes Kathy Fitzgerald as Madame Morrible and Gene Weygandt as The Wizard, who have both been a part of Wicked on Broadway in New York. The statuesque Matt Shingledecker plays Fiyero, and is a great supporting actor for the show’s leading ladies. I also can’t fail to mention Emily Behny as Nessarose, Elphaba’s wheelchair-bound sister, who shines in her limited number of solos.
Despite the smaller ensemble, orchestra, and stage, Wicked is nothing less than a complete theatrical production that still manages to be expansive. What makes Wicked unique, no matter what size company, are the themes discussed in the show’s duration. Two women lead this show where the dizzying, yet ultimately rewarding rollercoaster that is friendship – takes center stage. The show also discusses themes of equality, racism, bullying, and identity; All of this is included and wrapped up in a green bow, without ever feeling like the play gets lost in it’s attempt to address so many issues.
Case in point, go see Wicked while it touches down in Vancouver until June 29 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. There is a reason it has been successful on Broadway for so long. Believe the hype. Bring your friends and family, but Toto has to stay at home. You can get your tickets at Ticketmaster or at the Box Office before performances.
Featured Image belongs to Bradley P. Johnson