REVIEW: Wicked

photo by  Joan Marcus

photo by Joan Marcus

The Magic Returnifies

The beloved Broadway musical, Wicked, swept back into town this week for the start of a six-week run at the Orpheum in Minneapolis.  The show was last in Minneapolis four years ago and it was due for an encore.  Wicked is one of my favorite modern musicals.   The cast is very talented.  The two key stars are, of course, the witches.  While it is difficult to pick one over the other, in my opinion, Jenn Gambatese’s crackerjack performance as G(a)linda edged Allison Luff’s Elphaba.  Both are equally gifted vocalists, but Gambatese managed to put just the right amount of spunk and fragility into her character that was superior to the previous tour’s, Katie Rose Clarke, and rivaled the role’s originator, Kristin Chenoweth.  I thought Kim Zimmer did a great job as the feisty Mme. Morrible, but was underwhelmed by John Davidson’s Wizard.  If you saw the national tour of Next to Normal when it was in St. Paul in 2010, you will instantly recognize Curt Hansen’s powerful tenor in the role of the witches’ love interest, Fiyero.

They say you shouldn’t mess with a good thing, and the producers take that philosophy to heart.  Unlike some of the other mega-musicals out there, the production has not noticeably changed since the last traveling tour came to town.  This should please fans, as there wasn’t much that really needed adjusting.  That said, there are definitely some kinks that will surely be worked out as the crew settles in for this extended stay.  The fog machine was overused and the lighting cues were a little shaky at times.  One of the key scenes of the second act was nearly ruined by a badly trained spotlight (I’m sure that incident did not go unnoticed, so it’s unlikely to affect future performances).  My only other complaint was that some unbalanced sound mixing meant that the orchestra sometimes drowned out the chorus, making it difficult to hear the clever wordplay that is sprinkled into the songs.  Again, this is nitpicking from a devoted fan, so most people will not even notice the things I’m pointing out here.  I still walked out with a spring in my step and was whistling the tunes in the elevator on the way to work this morning.  Wicked is a musical that sticks with you.  See it as often as you can.

Wicked plays at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through October 27th.  Tickets start at $49.

DEAL ALERT:  If the ticket prices are too steep for you, be sure to try your luck with the $25 ticket lottery!