Wicked, the Tony-nominated musical originally from Broadway, made its stupendous return to the Toronto stage on Wednesday, September 3 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
Wicked is the untold story of the friendship between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (Laurel Harris), and Glinda the Good (Kara Lindsay), characters originally from The Wizard of Oz. It follows the characters through school, where they become reluctant roommates and eventual friends who each end up influencing who the other becomes in the original story.
I had heard the musical was wonderful, but as a first-time audience member I was pleasantly surprised by just how delightful the show was. It was a perfect blend of witty, whimsical, and moving. The music sounded even better live than on the soundtrack, and the sets were so dynamic that at times I really forgot I was watching a staged play.
Stars Harris and Lindsay were two of the evening’s highlights. They had incredible chemistry on stage and the contrasts in their characters’ personalities were beautifully portrayed. Harris seemed to have mastered a particular kind of dry wit that could only come from a character as guarded as Elphaba. It was both entertaining and saddening, but Harris blended these two elements in Elphaba with such compassion and ease that the cackling Wicked Witch of the West became a kind of “everygirl”, battling self-esteem issues and the need to be accepted.
Equally brilliant, Kara Lindsay’s Glinda embodied the sweetness we know from the classic but also a great empathy and gentleness. Glinda still appears ditsy on the surface but with Elphaba, Glinda becomes a much wiser witch, the one seen in the movie.
I was such a fan of the way the show depicted the impact Elphaba, who grows to have little need for public adoration, had on the characters in the story. It’s most noticeable with Glinda, but also seen in Fiyero (Matt Shingledecker), the “party boy” who both Glinda and Elphaba fall in love with. The audience gets to see Fiyero confront his deep and very hidden sadness, and it is Elphaba who notices it long before anyone else. Like Fiyero, many characters in this show are not quite what they seem, which is probably one of the most quietly magical parts of this musical. Almost every single character is relatable in some way and for a show that’s marketed as “magical”, there is a reality to the characters that makes the story that much more adult and memorable. For me, these characters felt real because it was fairly easy to see how each character arrived at the views they have of the others.
Wicked is a splendid production that celebrates friendship, discusses the power of perspective, and is absolutely worth the extra dollar. It’s no surprise that Wicked is as popular now as it was when it first opened in 2003. It’s a great show to see with a friend or with family, even if musical theatre is not your thing.
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz runs until November 2 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on Victoria Street.