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  • Writer's pictureNora Landy

Review: Wicked (Broadway)

February 11th, 2024

I see why this was groundbreaking in 2003! Alas, a lot of the aspects of this show have not stood the test of time (my use of the word “time” is funny because the set is a clock. You see?). Disclaimer: I never finished the book, so there are many things that I don’t understand in this production which I must assume are there because they were of significance in the book. At least that’s the hope I’m going off of!

The clock set (haha), now that I’ve seen the show as an adult, doesn’t seem to make any sense? This is one of the choices I’m imagining must’ve been shoehorned in from the book. They only mention the clock like, twice, and neither time does it seem to actually matter. If anyone really liked the book that much I probably would’ve guessed it was fan service. I was thinking “cool dragon, I bet it’ll be significant to the plot,” and then indeed it was not! In general the sets are still quite nice, not intrusive nor revolutionary. The giant robot wizard head is still remarkable.

I found the lighting to be pretty dated. I am no lighting designer, so I lack the vocabulary to articulate my thoughts, but the show seemed to consist of a lot of these clusters of brightly colored tight spots; whether I personally know what I’m talking about or not, I was reminded of high school.

The book, alas, I don’t think stands the test of time either! It commits no heinous crimes but lives in the world of humor that only boomers still find novel. Once again, I bet it was funny in 2003.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe. Why has contemporary Broadway stooped to constant clowning and insisting upon jokes that were already funny? I saw it in Sweeney Todd and I saw it (executed with less proficiency) here. Particularly the direction of Glinda but often including Elphaba— the forced funny voices, the way over-the-top attempts at physical comedy (which, despite falling flat, the actors pause after to wait for rapturous applause. Applause which is then reluctantly given by a forgiving and hopeful crowd)— it was exhausting. Like being at a high school improv show. If you were a funny person saying a funny thing, would you roll all over the floor and honk your nose to make sure everyone knew it was funny? Neither would these characters! Particularly painful to see a beautiful portrayal of Elphaba hindered by these strings of cheap bits.

One glittering gem that shines through the years: Susan Hilferty’s breathtaking costumes. Each new piece brings more wow factor, each recurrence of a piece brings more detail than you had noticed the last time. These designs are as wonderful (please forgive me) as they were on opening night, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

I have often complained of the endless riff-off that has become of Wicked on Broadway. On this particular evening we saw a swing Elphaba, whose name I will have to look up. Her vocal performance was electric— crisp, clear, with no need for endless ornamentation. Every riff was strategic and not a single one fell flat. She was not overly perfect, which I truly intend as a compliment. There was a humanness and an embrace of little “flaws” in her performance that I haven’t seen from a cookie-cutter BFA program product in any of my adult years.

Did I cry: Yes, a whole lot. This particular show was one of the ensemble members’ Broadway debut and I sobbed when he took center stage during bows.

Oh and edit: this was a surprise for my from my boyfriend who knew nothing about the show, and he unknowingly let us show up wearing green and pink outfits. Entirely by accident.

Photo by Joan Marcus

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