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Wonderful WICKED wows ’em again at State

Roy Berko

(American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

How good is the production of WICKED which is now appearing at the State Theatre?  In 2009 when I took my then 14-year old grandson, known as the Kid Reviewer because I take him along to give the teen/tween view of shows, he gave it a 9.5 out of 10 on his “rate the play scale.”  Why only a 9.5? He said he’s reserving the 10 for the most unbelievable show he’s ever seen. But, he indicated “’WICKED’ was GREAT!” Why? “It had everything. Great story, outstanding production qualities…sets, costumes, lights, special effects. The music and the performances were awesome.” His advice: “Go see this show! It’s appropriate for kids and their parents.”

It’s 2014 and the kid reviewer is an 18-year old multi-award winning composer.  His evaluation of this, the 2nd National Tour of WICKED?  He gave it a solid 9.75!  Yes, he thinks it was even better than when he saw the show “as a kid!

‘WICKED,’ an alternative view of the ‘WIZARD OF OZ,’ tells the “true” story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch, and her relationship with Glinda, the Good Witch. It has all the elements of the original tale, but packages them in a different way. We find out about how the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin man came to be. How Dorothy got the red (in this version silver) slippers. And, most importantly, what really happened to Elphaba. (Ah, yes, in a quirky ending, there is a happily-ever after story.)  We also become aware of the power of gossip and rumors

The music and lyrics, by one of my favorite theatre composers, Stephen Schwartz, includes such beautiful and delightful songs as “Popular,” “I’m Not That Girl,” “Defying Gravity,” “As Long as You’re Mine,” and Alex’s favorite, “For Good.”

The production qualities of this touring show are outstanding and impressive. There is a dragon hanging over the proscenium arch that has a wingspan the same as a Cessna 172 airplane. They use 200 pounds of dry ice every show for smoke effects and enough power in a single production to supply twelve houses with electricity. There are 175,000 pounds of scenery. This is not a stripped-down touring show, it’s a full-blown Broadway extravaganza.

The cast is strong.  No, it’s not the unbelieveable Idina Menzel (Elphaba), Christine Chenoweth (Linda) and Clevelander Joel Gray (as the Wizard), but, realistically, who can top that amazing trio?  (BTW—Menzel is on the way to Broadway in IF/THEN, which I saw in an-out-of-town preview in DC.  The show needs cutting, but Menzel is her usual mesmerizing self).

In the touring production, Jennifer DiNoia glows gloriously green as Elphaba. She hits the vocal high notes with ease and creates a clear characterization. Haley Podschun is properly bubbly as the “popular” Glinda.   She sings beautifully and carries the role well.  David Nathan Perlow is excellent as the self-centered Fiyero, who falls in love with Elphaba.   BTW…did you know that Adam Lambert, the AMERICAN IDOL runner-up and actor on GLEE was the understudy for Fiyero in the Los Angeles production of WICKED?

Alex Wyse is character-right as Boq.  If the name sounds familiar, it should.  Wyse is a very talented Clevelander who showcased his talents on local stages for many years.

Talking about Clevelanders, besides Gray and Wyse, the name ARACA on the program should ring some bells.  ARACA, ( the theatrical production company founded by Michael and Matthew Rego and Hank Miller, all Clevelanders, are the producers of WICKED.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  When asked what I should write in my capsule judgement Alex said, with enthusiasm, “Tell them if they didn’t see WICKED yet, go see this show!  If they did see it before, “Go see it again, it’s that good!” Grandpa totally agrees!!!!

WICKED runs through January 5 2014 at the State Theatre in downtown Cleveland.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to