The national tour of Wicked has made an appearance in Omaha before, but this time around it showcases a whole new stellar cast and new blood. From the start of the show to the finale, the top-notch production doesn’t miss a beat and is timed perfectly with every art deco set transition. The cast is the crème of the crop when it comes to Broadway talent, and they never cease to deliver from vocals to perfectly executed choreography. It should be noted that several understudies are on standby for each principal role (I saw Jordan Litz’s performance as Fiyero,) so when you go you may see a completely different performance.
Upon their time at Schiz University, the popular Glinda, well-liked by the munchkin scholars, finds herself having to room with a “rather unusual and exceedingly peculiar” green girl who possesses the ability to read ancient spells. Their unlikely friendship and the saga of their journeys is a captivating production woven with spellbinding storytelling. The story of two rival witches that befriend each other in the land of Oz by Winnie Holzman (Tony Award nomination and Drama Desk Award,) became a hit in 2004 when “Wicked” won a Tony Award for Best Musical along with a host of other awards, and has been going strong ever since. “Wicked,” has been dubbed the most successful show to ever grace the Great White Way. Schwartz is known for his work on “Pippin,” “Children of Eden,” and “Godspell,” as well as his collaboration with Alan Menken lending music and lyrics to “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Enchanted.” Schwartz’s dramatic and theatrical “Wicked,” score is riveting with every note. “Defying Gravity,” has particularly gone down in history as one of the most popular and well known musical theatre selections, and to date is indisputably one of the most overdone musical theatre audition songs. From the time I sang the soprano solo in “For Good,” senior year of high school, I’ve been humming the iconic tunes ever since.
When the Gregory Maguire book came out in 1995, no one quite could predict what this adapted Frank L. Baum book would become as the next phenomenon on Broadway, with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith chosen to lay the yellow brick road down for the magical leading ladies to come. “Wicked,” put the story of the Oz witches on the map, forever paving the way for strong, powerful mezzo sopranos to take up the mantel of Elphaba and wail some of the highest belts in musical theatre history. Since the debut of Menzel as Elphaba, there has been a whole roster of Elphabas starring on Broadway. Stephanie J. Block (cast in the original reading,) Shoshanna Bean, Eden Espinosa, and a slew of other talented actresses have all donned the black hat and worn green makeup to play the role of a lifetime that has shaped their illustrious careers. The role of Glinda too has notably carved out careers for aspiring classically trained musical theatre and crossover performers.
Jennafer Newberry (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “The Light In the Piazza,”) is a charming, bubbly tour de force and almost too good in her portrayal of Glinda the Good. Little sparkling quirks and an operatic sheen she adds to her character makes for a very entertaining performance, complete with beautiful legit vocals.
Lissa deGuzman as Elphaba has electrifying, soaring vocals. Her portrayal of the iconic character is a sensational powerhouse, and she makes it all her own. DeGuzman is dynamic and astounding, from her character choices to her vocal acrobatics and clear belt. The Belmont University grad has performed other roles in the productions of “Aladdin” and “King Kong,” and “Fiddler On the Roof,” at the Muny, but it’s as if the emerald-skinned role was made for her.
Broadway newcomer and former swimmer Jordan Litz as Fiyero, the Winkie Crown Prince is a perfectly tall heartthrob oozing with the kind of bravado that could only make one swoon. His voice is the perfect match of Disney prince meets bad boy as the leading man and object of Elphaba and Glinda’s affections.
The entire show is so fantastic you won’t just sing along if you know the music and are a fan. A fellow actor myself, I found myself glued to the actors’ every move, living vicariously through every scene of their performances. Favorite numbers included “Loathing,” “Popular,” “No Good Deed,” “Defying Gravity,” and “As Long As Your Mine,” and of course, “For Good.” There is so much cohesive momentum, energy, and pure magic.
One thing I loved about “Wicked” was that is clearly shows how Elphaba is misunderstood. Already a misfit, she cares deeply for the animals in the land of Oz that can speak and are being marginalized. Elphaba is the epitome of strong, women empowerment and doing what’s right despite the wickedness around her.
“Wicked,” is exhilarating entertainment and a true phenomenon you don’t want to miss. The production runs through May 15th at the Orpheum Theatre.