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Top-notch Wicked musical brings audience leaping to their feet

Laurel Harris as Elphaba and Kara Lindsey as Glinda. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

If you’re looking for a Broadway show that covers all the bases of great singers singing catchy pop songs, a familiar story told from a different point of view, unusual choreography splendidly danced and jokes told with exquisite timing and panache, then go see Broadway Across Canada’s production of Wicked  running till June 29 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Though standing ovations are the norm these days, rarely does an audience leap to their feet upon seconds of the curtain call. So was the case at opening night.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Shwartz (Godspell, Pippin), Wicked tells the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. Based on the 1995 Gregory Maquire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and the parallel novel of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked is filtered through a very American perspective during the George W. Bush era.

The story of Elphaba, the pickle-toned, passionate and brilliant girl who grows up to be the notorious Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, the gorgeous but dumb blonde with a penchant for malapropisms who grows up to become Glinda the Good Witch of the North is a rich investigation of good and evil.  Every bad/good guy/gal has a back story that explains their actions and makes one consider the grey area. Wicked explores this milieu.

Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin) wrote the music and lyrics and Winnie Holzman ( later creator of tv show “My So Called Life”) wrote the book. If you’ve ever sat in on a musical theatre audition, you will recognize the songs.

Wicked is only as good as the Elphaba voice and the Glinda comic shtick based on Kristin Chenoweth’s original interpretations. This production does not disappoint.

Laurel Harris as Elphaba has one of those Lea Michelle belt voices that can fill the Queen Elizabeth and yet tell a story quietly. She is simply fabulous; not only does she have a terrific voice, she plays the part of the misunderstood girl and woman she becomes with an intelligent honesty and loads of charisma.

Kara Lindsay’s Glinda follows Chernoweth’s ditzy comic timing to a “T”. Garnering some of the biggest laughs of the night, her pretty soprano is also solid.

The singers in the chorus are spot on with super true harmonies musical directed by Jason Sherbundy with Stephen Oremus as the show’s musical supervisor. As is sometimes the case in touring shows, the chorus loses their luster. Not so here.

A big surprise was the choreography with Dance Arrangements by James Lynn Abbott. Not standard jazz dance fare but rather a super sensual modern jazz feel with no superfluous tricks but rather the flow of movement characterized it.

The production values that we’ve come to expect from Broadway across Canada shows do not disappoint with glorious costumes by Tony Winner Susan Hilferty (Into the Woods, Assassins) and an over the top Steam Punk set by Tony winner Eugene Lee (Ragtime, Show Boat, Candide, Sweeney Todd). The Emerald City costumes in particular are each a study in design imagination topped with hats the Queen of England would envy and the dragon that starts the action of the play off has West Edmonton Mall like proportions.

For tickets: Ticketmaster

 

 

 

 

 

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