It’s funny that Wicked still touts itself as ”A New Broadway Musical” — especially when you consider that rival sister witches Elphaba and Glinda have been working their (literal) magic on Broadway for nearly seven years now. The show opened on the Great White Way on Oct. 30, 2003, and EW lauded the first production (EW’s original review), saying it was ”the Wicked witches who really make magic” in the show. Nothing has changed. Although the show’s original stars, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, have gone on to even greater fame on stage and screen, the current incarnation is still spellbinding, chilling, and inspiring.
It may be impossible to live up to the standard set by the original stars, but the actresses now playing Elphaba and Glinda nearly match their better-known predecessors. Just like Menzel, Mandy Gonzalez reaches the rafters as green-faced witch Elphaba with her ragey ”Defying Gravity” and pulls tenderly on the romantic inside all of us with ”As Long As You’re Mine” alongside Andy Karl’s tender Fieryo. Katie Rose Clarke’s Glinda comes blaring onto stage as sweet and shrill, but she’s great, even if she doesn’t infuse the good Glinda with a too-too-saccharine nature as Chenoweth did. And Clarke’s version of ”Popular” still kills. While these performers are working with top-notch, crowd-pleasing material, it still requires a good voice and strong acting chops to pull off this kind of otherworldly show.
In terms of longevity on Broadway, Wicked is blessed with one huge advantage: It’s set in a world (that’d be Oz) that’s total fantasy, not to mention a childhood dream for anyone who’s seen or read The Wizard of Oz (which is nearly everyone). No matter how many times you see the show, it still makes you feel something — there’s so much to take away from the material, depending on your station in life. The lesson may be that outsiders can break in, that love is possible, or that doing the right thing is important. Or, as Elphaba sings in ”Defying Gravity,” that no one can pull you down. A?
(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or 800-982-2787)