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Awe-inspiring ‘Wicked’

Dino Dela Rosa
By Dino Dela Rosa

Since it premiered on Broadway in 2003, the well-loved, mega-hit musical “Wicked” has broken box office records in every city it has played. It continues to also enthrall critics and audiences around the world.

After selling out in record time, it is back at the Kennedy Center Opera House where it is running till August 21. When I attended the press opening Night recently, this Tony Award- winner had the audience spellbound for most of the night.

“Wicked”, based on the book by Gregory Maguire and a knockout score by Stephen Schwartz, is a prequel to “The Wizard Of Oz.” Long before that sweet farm girl from Kansas, Dorothy, drops in, Two other girls form an unlikely friendship in the land of Oz. One named Elphaba (Dee Roscioli), born with green skin, is intelligent, feisty and unspoken. The other named Glinda(Amanda Jane Cooper), is beautiful, vain and very popular.

When Elphaba and her normal looking sister, the wheelchair bound  Nessarose (Stefanie Brown), arrive in Oz in their school, she is shunned by the students because of her green skin. But Glinda, the leader of the school’s social clique, feels sorry for her and befriends her. She is also befriended by Boq( a superb Justin Brill), a Munchkin with a heart of gold, and falls for her somewhat clueless and handsome classmate, Fiyero( a briliant Colin Hanson), with whom Glinda also falls in love.

Elphaba is appalled when the government is determined to silence the animals of their speech capabilities. She springs into action by vigorously defending them. This leads her to be ostracized more by the everyone at Oz and branded the Wicked Witch Of The West, including the Wonderful Wizard Of Oz(a superb Mark Jacob) who turns out not to be wonderful at all.

Along the way, Elphaba and Glinda, despite their differences, learn the real meaning of friendship(“For Good”), appearances vs. being true to yourself, fighting for what you believe in and defying, not only gravity, but the odds.

Dee Roscioli gives an exceptional performance as Elphaba. In the vocally demanding “Defying Gravity,” she soars, not only literally, but powerfully. Breathlessly showstopping, which had the audience roaring.

In her bio in the program, Ms. Roscioli has played Elphaba in more performances than any other actress. She is a sight to behold and this show is a showcase for her powerhouse vocals.

Amanda Jane Cooper makes for an excellent Glinda. She shows great comic timing in “Popular” and a vibrant soprano(“No One Mourns The Wicked” and “Thank Goodness”). She also blends well in her duets with Roscioli in “What Is This Feeling?” and the poignant tearjerker “For Good.”

Special mention goes to Eugene Lee for his breathtaking set in which he evokes the magical land of Oz, Susan Hilferty for the sumptuous costumes and James Lynn Abbott for the top-notch choreography.

“Wicked” is an unforgettable theatrical experience!!!

WICKED, direction by Joe Mantello at the Kennedy Center Opera House, till August 21. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Book by Winnie Holzman, Musical Staging, Wayne Cilento Orchestrations,  William David Brohn  202-467-4600 or visit www. kennedy-center.org.

 

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