In 2005 and 2006, when Wicked held limited engagements in Toronto, it broke box-office records and I heard from people who don’t even often enjoy musical theatre that it was spectacular. The show has finally returned to Toronto at the Canon Theatre for a 5 week engagement, so I finally got to check out the show.
The musical tells the untold story of how the two witches of Oz (The Good Witch, and The Wicked Witch of The West) came to be. The production starts with the two women as teenagers and how they met at school, and then the second act shows us what was happening in “The Wizard Of Oz” from the witches’ perspective. Dorothy is never seen but only talked about as the young farm girl. The writing is extremely clever in using moments and characters from the iconic film, but giving us a new interpretation or perspective on them.
In this production, Jackie Burns plays Elphaba (The Wicked Witch) and Chandra Lee Schwartz plays Glinda (The Good Witch). The original Broadway production featured stage royalty Idina Menzel (who won a Tony for her performance) and Kristin Chenoweth, and you can see how these roles were tailored made for them. The role of Glinda, in particular, plays perfectly off Chenoweth’s personality, and Schwartz seems to be channeling Chenoweth the best she can in this production. Schwartz particularly nails her “Popular” number with great physicality and comedic timing.
The night I saw Wicked, understudy Carla Stickler played the role of The Wicked Witch, and you’d never know she was the “second string”, so to speak. Stickler nails the anger, the charm, and the power in the role of Elphaba. There’s several difficult solo numbers that Stickler tackled with ease including “The Wizard And I”, “I’m Not That Girl”, and “No Good Deed”.
The Tony-winning production design and costume design of the production is truly spectacular from the massive robotic dragon that looms over the top of the stage to the moving set pieces to the flying bubble. It’ll put you in awe that the cast and crew can make this all look so seemless.
The two most powerful moments in the show that had people wiping away tears (not I, for I am cold and heartless) were the closing song “For Good” and the first act closer, “Defying Gravity”, the most famous song from the production. It’s refreshing to see a new musical that has become a modern classic and will stand the time. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the reveal at the very end of the musical. It felt like a bit of a copout and a safe choice (won’t give away the ending).