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Review: ‘Wicked’ is Just as Good as Ever

Many Broadway fans consider Wicked to be the biggest advancement in musical theater in the last decade. Its long-standing run on Broadway, followed by national tours that continue to play to sold-out cities even in their third or fourth stops, are a testament to its crowd-pleasing qualities. Wicked, based on the book by Gregory Maguire, tells the untold story of Elphaba, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West (from The Wizard of Oz). Revolving around Elphaba’s topsy-turvey relationship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, Wicked tells an engaging, powerful story that makes the audience question the intentions of even their most offensive enemies.

Wicked Proves It’s Worthy of Repeat Business

HE SAID:  It is interesting reviewing this show. It’s different than reviewing the latest version of a frequently-produced show like, say, The 25th Annual.. Spelling Bee because in that situation you are reviewing a new production of it. In this case, it’s like reviewing the same production after having seen it several times. There is personally no anticipation to witness how the various elements might be different this time around. It’s the same long-running, record-breaking national tour whose look and feel has not changed, for the most part, since the last time it came through Denver. And, when you think about it, that is part of what keeps people coming back. The story is creative and endearing, the music is fantastically thematic, and the whole package is top notch.

SHE SAID: This is the fourth time I’ve seen this show — I saw it on Broadway, as well as twice in San Francisco. Although I went through an obligatory obsession with it when it first came out (confession here that Stephen Schwartz is my favorite musical theater composer ever), after my third time seeing it, I thought I was done. Like you say, it hasn’t changed, so I wasn’t super excited to see it. My prediction was that it would be solid, but not incredible. I was totally, totally wrong. This touring cast really knocks this one out of the park! The energy of this production is absolutely infectious, and there is absolutely nothing stale or tired about it, as you might be wary of if going to see a tour that has been on the road for this long.

Women of Wicked do Witches Well

HE SAID: Very true. The only place where I found the slightest bit of anticipation before the show was in the one (arguably most important) place the show varies each time I see it – the actresses playing Elphaba and Glinda. This time around Alli Mauzey embraced the bubble as the popular G(a)linda while Mamie Parris fully stepped into the green skin as the supposed wicked witch of the West- and it made all the difference. It was like I was watching the show for the first time – fresh, exciting, and wonderful! Mauzey was so perky, bubbly and bouncy, but without every overdoing it once and her overall character arch was the most well defined I have ever seen. In perfect pairing, Parris has a voice that can shake the rafters and nuanced acting abilities that make every moment count.

SHE SAID : The women really are responsible for a lot of my pleasant surprise. These two strong, complex female characters are largely responsible for the long-standing success of the show. Mauzey as Glinda is the most balanced I’ve ever seen, pairing an effortless, tightly spiraling vibrato with a hilariously quirky personality that is an instant hit. And Mamie Parris as Elphaba… I’m just going to say it, she’s the best Elphaba I’ve ever seen. She started, “The Wizard and I” a bit shyly, holding back from holding anything too long or belting anything too loudly, and then she whips out an incredible, clear, confident belt like nothing I’ve ever heard. The Elphaba vocal requirements can conquer even the best of singers, but I trusted her voice the whole time — I never wondered if she was going to be able to hit this or that next huge note, I just KNEW she would.

Ensemble and Design Show No Signs of Wear

HE SAID:  The ensemble was amazingly powerful, as well. Their brilliant control really brought the dramatic dynamics in the music to life. With a lot of the (at the risk of being cliche) epic moments in the music resting on their shoulders, they delivered in a way that made my heart race and pulled me into the more active, intense, darker moments of the show.

SHE SAID: Because I’ve never seen this show on the road, I was a bit nervous that the tour requirements would diminish the spectacle of the show. Much like Phantom of the Opera or even The Lion King, Wicked partially owes its success to a brilliant, unique design that has frequent and infrequent theater-goers alike thinking, “Wow, this is wheat a set looks like on BROADWAY.” I was delighted to discover that the big technical elements are still in place to impress — from the Dragon above the proscenium to the wonderful Wizard head to Elphaba’s iconic flight, those who want to come see Wicked to be dazzled will certainly be so.

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Wicked Has Never Been So Good

THEY SAID: Wicked is a fantastic show, so if you have never seen it (you’re behind!), treat yourself while it visits our city. But if you have seen it already – perhaps in one of the three previous times it has visited our city – you might be wondering why you would want to see the same show again. Well, two reasons: Alli Mauzey and Mamie Parris. They revitalized the show for us, providing new insights and connections to material that we thought we had seen enough of. This is not an easy thing to do, but these wonderful performers in this wonderful material make it worth revisiting the wonderful world of Oz.

For more information on Wicked, see the wikipedia page.Wicked plays through May 20 at The Buell Theater at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click the banner for tickets and more information.

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