Hey, did you hear Wicked is in town? Chances are you have, many times, as the hype for this much-anticipated six-week engagement of the most popular musical of the last decade started well before its venue, the Smith Center, was even open. Though the Smith Center has been open for five months now, this show represents its unofficial coming-out party, as many people will be seeing it for the first time over the next few weeks.
Though I got a chance to tour the facility during media day back in March, this was my first time actually seeing a show there, and it lived up to my expectations. I had had a more traditional Vegas theatrical experience the night before, and the contrast reinforced the reasons the Smith Center needs to exist. With no slot machines or tourists carrying yard-long plastic drink cups in sight, the preshow atmosphere had the elegant big-city feel the Center’s planners and supporters were hoping for.
As for the show itself, it was a master class in how to do a big-budget, mass-appeal musical in almost every sense. Going in, my knowledge of the show was limited to the ubiquitous posters plastered around town and the time Rachel and Kurt sang “Defying Gravity” on Glee. I was struck by how quirky, sarcastic, and occasionally dark it was for a show as massively popular as it is. After the months of hype, I wasn’t expecting a major storyline to involve a talking goat and evocations of the Holocaust.
For the unitiated, Wicked tells the story of The Wizard of Oz‘s Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba (Nicole Parker), and her frenemy Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Patti Murin) and presents Elphaba not as a villain but as a freedom fighter against the corrupt reign of the fraudulent Wizard.
Parkerand Murin both give outstanding performances, moving from lighthearted schoolgirl rivalry to big-time melodrama, especially on “Defying Gravity,” the showstopping Act I finale. They both keep their characters from getting subsumed by the baroque production design and special effects.
Overall, the show demonstrated that the more than a year of hype and promotion were all worth it. The Smith Center was right in making this, its first Broadway touring production, the centerpiece of its unveiling. It delivers a full-scale Broadway experience in way that the shows on the Strip, for all of their virtues, just can’t do.
Wicked, at The Smith Center
August 29 – October 7
Tickets starting from $39
Tuesday – Friday Performances at 7:30pm
Saturday and Sunday Performances at 2:00pm & 7:30pm
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