PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A musical doesn’t stick around on Broadway for 15 years and go on tour to more than a dozen countries if it’s just OK — and “Wicked” is far from OK.
The musical twist on the “Wizard of Oz” story we all know so well is an exciting crowd pleaser that mixes fun, emotion and catchy songs that will get stuck in your head.
The musical introduces us to Elphaba, a misunderstood woman who happens to have green skin and Glina, a bubbly, privileged woman. These opposites end up as roommates and naturally, they loathe each other at first. Despite their differences, the witches strike up an unexpected friendship that spurs one of the musical’s most quotable songs, “For Good.”
Along the way, there is a surprising amount of corruption and betrayal. Like most stories, it’s largely about good vs. evil and what it means to be good or evil. Listening to the songs alone doesn’t really convey the political scheming or social injustice, which is the real story. In 2019 it’s hard not to see things through that lens, even in a musical made in 2003 based on a book published in 1995. Obviously, the “it couldn’t happen here” motif is timeless.
As someone who listened to the cast recording of “Wicked” with the mega-talented Idina Menzel as Elphaba for 15 years, hearing someone else belt out “Defying Gravity” may have been weird but I was lucky enough to see Sarah Anne Fernandez step into the role as an understudy. She was phenomenal.
As Glinda, Erin Mackey was also a delight. She’s tiny with a huge voice and her character has a great arch. She goes from a snobby (and honestly annoying) schoolgirl to a powerful figurehead. I started out wanting to slap her but was really rooting for her by the end.
Fans of musical theater like me will get excited about classics like “Fiddler on the Roof” and newer favorites like “Dear Evan Hansen” — both coming to Portland as part of the 2019/2020 season — but it seems like everyone wants to see “Wicked.”
“Wicked” is a musical people who don’t like musicals will see. It exploded in popularity when it first hit the stage and hasn’t stopped entertaining audiences since.
It’s up there with “Hamilton” and “The Book of Mormon” in terms of mainstream popularity.
I’ve seen dozens of shows at Keller since I was a kid and it’s always great to see such big musicals come through. Everyone should have a chance to see live theater and national tours are a great step to making Broadway accessible to more people.
“Wicked” returns to Keller Auditorium in Portland for 24 performances between July 10 and 28.
There are still plenty of tickets available starting at $49.00. The show is 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.