On Stage: Wicked

As we were leaving the theater on opening night for the Fox’s latest production of “Wicked,” The Wife turned to me and said,

“That show gets better every time I see it.”

To which I replied,

“I was thinking the exact same thing.”

That’s not usually the case. Usually the first time I see a show is when I enjoy it the most — when it’s all new and exciting and fresh. I still judge every version of “Les Miserables” I see by the first production I watched, and they all come up short. The first time I saw The Who I was so far up in the rafters that I thought I would get a nosebleed, and even though I’ve seen them many other times from much better vantage points, that first show is still the most memorable.

But such is not the case with “Wicked.” The first time I saw it I thought it was good but didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The second time I liked it better but still didn’t feel the love. Thursday night it all clicked for me. Maybe it’s the cast, maybe it’s the season, maybe I’m under a spell — whatever the reason, I now have a greater appreciation for “Wicked” and what it means to so many theatergoers.

Christine Dwyer and Jenna de Waal in a scene from "Wicked." Photo by Joan Marcus

Christine Dwyer and Jenna de Waal in a scene from “Wicked.” Photo by Joan Marcus

For the “Wicked” impaired, this is a musical that tells the “untold story of the witches of Oz.” Based on the book by Gregory Maguire which in turn was inspired by  L. Frank Baum’s classic tale “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the musical version hit Broadway in 2003 and has been doing big business ever since.

In the version now playing at the Fox Theatre, Jeanna de Waal stars as Glinda, the good witch and Christine Dwyer stars as Elphaba, the wicked one. Glinda is vain and superficial while Elphaba is serious and an outcast due to her bright green skin. The two become roommates at school and while they lock horns at first they eventually become BFFs. Well, maybe not forever.

“Wicked” features impressive lighting and set designs. I’m not sure what the dragon hovering over the stage has to do with anything but it looks cool. The costumes are colorful and stylish. I’m not completely sold on the story — I’ve never understood why everyone but Elphaba has it in for the animals.

The actors are fine and the vocals are strong. While Dwyer and de Waal both performed admirably I was really drawn to Glinda’s story this time around.

The score, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, didn’t impress me the first time around — “Defying Gravity” was always the high point but the rest of it was lacking. But now I have much greater appreciation for fun songs like “Popular,” “Wonderful,” “The Wizard and I” and the moving “For Good.”

“Wicked” runs through Jan. 6 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

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