Elphaba (Lissa deGuzman) and Glinda (Jennifer Newberry) are in a hidden space in the Emerald City. They just ran away from a first meeting with the Wizard that could not have gone worse, and Glinda is trying to convince Elphaba to apologize rather than run away. The guards have been trying to break down the doors with everything they have, and the friends likely only have minutes until they are officially discovered.
Finally, with a bang, the doors are forced open. The guards come running in – weapons at the ready. Elphaba has concealed herself and Glinda is screaming in the middle of the action. As the guards take hold of her to drag her away, Elphaba yells from the darkness. She is clearly the one that they are after, and as she walks forward, the music swells, and she starts to sing.
“So if you care to find me, look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately, ‘everyone deserves the chance to fly!’”
As Elphaba sings the famous lyrics of Defying Gravity, she starts to rise up. Lights flash around her, her long black cloak sways, and the iconic image of the Wicked Witch of the West flying above the crowd and audience takes form. As deGuzman’s notes rang and bounced off the rafters, the Opening Night audience cheered and applauded straight into intermission.
Broadway in Chicago presents Wicked
With music and lyrics by Stephan Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, Wicked offers a window into the backstory of the famous characters of The Wizard of Oz – complete with a very different lens. We meet Wicked Witch of the West Elphaba (deGuzman) and Glinda the Good (Newberry) as students at Shiz University. The two begin as bitter rivals – one an outcast with a green skin and an extraordinary talent for magic, and the other blonde, beautiful, and exceptionally popular. Over the course of the story we see a strong friendship take form – one that must rise above countless obstacles including the toughest yet: when the world labels one as wicked and the other good.
Directed by Joe Mantello, the musical features famous songs including Wizard and I, Popular, One Short Day, As Long as You’re Mine, and of course, Defying Gravity. If the cheering Opening Night crowd was any indication, the stellar leads performed each of these songs with standout vocal talents.
Mantello and his artistic team draw inspiration from the famous Wizard of Oz imagery, adding magical flares throughout. Much of Wicked foreshadows Dorothy’s story to come, and if you are like this writer, you might enjoy searching for those details as you meet each new character, wondering how they will connect to the popular story on which so many of us grew up.
A Story about Friendship
At its core, Wicked is a heartwarming story about friendship – and two women who continue to fight on behalf of the other despite everything thrown their way. Mantello and his ensemble work to highlight these moments in an authentic manner, creating a friendship that this writer certainly wanted to see succeed.
During Dancing Through Life, we see the Shiz University students take the night off at a larger-than-life party. All are dressed to impress, and at the center are Glinda and Fiyero (Jordan Litz) – the most popular couple in school. As everyone is dancing and enjoying themselves we see Elphaba enter. Suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. The music stops, and everyone moves away – leaving Elphaba alone in the center of the room. Clearly she was uninvited, and no one quite knows how to handle the intrusion.
Slowly, she starts to dance – without music, and with her own choreography that is special to her. The tension rises, and you even might even feel yourself moving to the edge of your seat, wishing someone would come to her aid. As the whispers amongst the characters start to grow, Glinda steps forward and begins to dance alongside Elphaba. The two have been at each other’s throats up until this scene; however, in this moment, they come together.
The moment turns into a stunning piece of choreography as the other students join. Dancing Through Life starts to play again, and a combination of the earlier movements and Elphaba’s original dance takes form on stage. However, for the briefest of moments, we see an intimate friendship start to blossom. If you’re anything like this writer, you might even feel yourself tearing up.
Stellar ensemble and standout music and choreography make Wicked a must-see. Whether you are a long-time fan of the score or this would be your first introduction, the production is well-worth the ticket.
Through December 4, 2022
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Wednesdays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm
Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with intermission
James M. Nederlander Theatre
24 W Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
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About the Author: Lauren Katz
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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