It’s been three years since “Wicked” last bewitched the Opera House but the behemoth blockbuster musical is still as dazzling a spectacle as ever.
Flying monkeys, smoke and mirrors, witches, munchkins and Broadway-style glitz make the magic in this tale of life in pre-Dorothy Oz come alive. A good part of the magic in this staging of the untold story of Glinda and Elphaba can be attributed to the ornate set, which boasts an enormous Time Dragon Clock, high atop the stage, that breathes fire when one of the witches is up to no good.
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Unfortunately — and surprisingly — there were a couple of problems on opening night that will hopefully be remedied quickly. The sound lacked the usual rich quality one expects of a production of this scale, rendering the incredible Stephen Schwartz score a bit flat in a few places.
The other issue was that one of the show’s two leads, Elphaba, was played by standby Laurel Harris. Unlike an understudy, the standby’s job is to go on when the lead can’t. Harris was so rusty in Act I that while Elphaba and her broom soared sky-high during “Defying Gravity” her vocals did not. Luckily, Harris fared much better in Act II and the audience roared their approval at curtain call. Still, she failed to deliver one of the production's show-stopper moments, which is a shame.
Jenn Gambatese was able to pick up some of the slack with her perky portrayal of Glinda, nailing every comedic moment and delivering a delightful rendition of audience favorite “Popular.” Likewise, Kim Zimmer — a long-time leading lady on the soap “Guiding Light” — is a sheer joy to behold as the misspeaking Madame Morrible. Curt Hansen also enchants as Fiyero, the object of all of the witches’ attentions.
Despite its problems, though, it cannot be denied that this “Wicked” still possesses the power to cast a firm spell.