Wicked has triumphantly returned to Salt Lake City's Capitol Theatre with a cast as sparkling as its spectacle. If you've never seen Wicked before, now is the time to do everything in your power to procure tickets. Even if you have seen the show in the past, you will not regret seeing it again in this fresh incarnation.
The musical, which is part-prequel, part-parallel story to The Wizard of Oz, relates the tale of the intertwined lives of the Wicked Witch of the West (here named Elphaba) and Glinda the Good.
Wicked is a worldwide blockbuster for good reason-the book by Winnie Holzman (based on Gregory Maguire's novel) and score by Stephen Schwartz tug at the heartstrings while the spectacular staging (including sets, lighting, costumes, wigs, and special effects) stimulates the senses. All these elements can be counted on to make any visit to Wicked's Ozian world a memorable one, whether in a sit-down production or on tour.
The producers of the show are to be commended for their resolve to maintain the high quality of their many productions, including their casts (which constantly rotate between Broadway and tours). A direct result of this is the stellar cast currently at the Capitol Theatre. Nearly every member, including ensemble, has performed in multiple shows on Broadway in the past. The level of talent is much higher than the run-of-the-mill touring show and feels more on par with what one would see on the Great White Way. There is a good chance this will be the best cast to perform anywhere in Utah this year.
If the producers take such great care to ensure that all Wicked productions are of high quality, what makes this one so special? Why is this one a must-see regardless of your past experience with the musical or lack thereof? The answer is just two words: Elphaba and Glinda.
MADtv alum Nicole Parker stars as Elphaba, while Glinda is played by Alli Mauzey (from the original cast of the short-lived Broadway musical Cry-Baby). They played these same roles opposite each other on Broadway in 2009, and their familiarity with one another is apparent. There is a connection between the two that makes the characters' unlikely friendship believable and that binds them together in a parallel journey.
The voices and characteristics of Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth (the original Broadway Elphaba and Glinda, respectively) are so unique and iconic in the lexicon of Contemporary Theatre that it is an understandably daunting task to take on their roles. Too often, actresses attempt to mimic every aspect of their performances (especially Ms. Chenoweth's) and end up with a broad carbon copy of the original. The singing is always first-rate, but the characterizations are thin. In this cast, the opposite is actually the case. While Mauzey and Parker are both solid vocalists, their emphasis is on the development of the characters.
Parker's character arc is illustrated by her renditions of Elphaba's big solo numbers. In her performance of "The Wizard and I," Elphaba is an awkward, spastic teenager with an immature outlook on life. Her voice grows richer and darker as the character progresses, beginning with "I'm Not that Girl" and especially its deep final notes. Parker's interpretation of "Defying Gravity" is more complex and powerful, reflecting the turning point the scene marks in Elphaba's life. Her Act II showstopper "No Good Deed" is an explosion of mature emotion and vocal pyrotechnics that is confirmation of Elphaba's transformation into an adult.
Mauzey brings a youthful energy to the part of Glinda. Her looks and mannerisms make her actually seem to be a high school student obsessed with popularity, rather than a twenty- or thirty-something playing one. When the character has matured, she brings the perfect amount of pathos as a young woman who thought she knew what she wanted but is hopelessly lost now that she has entered the real world. She adds a fun pop sensibility to her songs and injects fresh humor into some of their worn jokes while still occasionally paying homage to Kristen Chenoweth and Billie Burke (Glinda in the 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz).