Review: Very po-pu-lar ‘Wicked’ soars at Reynolds Hall in Smith Center
Fri, Aug 31, 2012 (11:38 a.m.)
Also: “Photos: Dragons and witches and neon, oh my! A behind-the-scenes look at ‘Wicked’ ”
“Popular -- you’re gonna be po-pu-lar!” sings Glinda (Patti Murin) to new BFF Elphaba (Nicole Parker) in Act I of “Wicked,” the Tony- and Grammy-winning musical now at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 7.
The song could be about “Wicked” itself, as the Broadway smash based on the 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire has become a theatrical phenomenon, winning three Tonys in 2004 and thrusting its two dynamic lead actresses Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda (or Guh-linda, with a Guh), and Idina Menzel as Elphie (Menzel, facing off against Chenoweth, went home with the statuette) into the spotlight.
No matter that “Wicked,” a prequel and parallel of Frank L. Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and the 1939 Hollywood classic “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, has divided critics from day one (it was nominated for 11 Tonys and notably lost Best Musical, Best Book and Original Score to “Avenue Q”); it is critic proof -- in the vein of the “Twilight” books and films -- and has a devoted (fanatic) following like its predecessor “Rent.”
The scenic and costume design (the other two Tony winners) at Reynolds Hall on Thursday night were exemplary, and the supporting cast -- Kim Zimmer (Madame Morrible -- and, yes, Reva Shayne from “Guiding Light,” which garnered her four Emmys), Cliffton Hall (Fiyero), Tom McGowan (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz) and Demaree Hill (Nessarose) -- under director Joe Mantello were very good.
But it’s no surprise that Parker and Murin are the exceptional standouts, and they hold their own against role originators Menzel and Chenoweth, respectively -- big red ruby slippers to fill, indeed.
Murin is a comedic, ditzy blonde delight as Glinda, and she does the book by Winnie Holzman (“My So-Called Life”) proud with every hilarious vocal and physical delivery. Her rendition of “Popular” was a highlight of the evening; it’s good to be Glinda the Good Witch, who travels by bubble.
But it’s the sarcastic, smart -- and green -- underdog Parker who sparkles like an, ahem, emerald at center stage. Elphie is a role as equally showy as Glinda, but with depths of heartbreak, longing, compassion and eventually love. The audience laughs at/with Glinda but roots for Elphie. Elphie requires a big vocal range and one that can belt with the best of them “American Idol”-style. Parker delivers in “I’m Not That Girl,” “No Good Deed” and the show-stopping “Defying Gravity” that wraps Act. I.
The audience heaped praise before, during and, in the valet line, post-show. The full standing ovation was immediate -- and not just for Parker and Murin -- and rousing. I first saw “Wicked” in San Diego in 2006 with Kendra Kassebaum as Glinda and Julia Murney as Elphie, and I still love it just as much after Thursday night’s performance.
“Wicked” is popular, and it will be po-pu-lar for many years to come. It’s Oz-some.
“Wicked” is at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 7. Check out the Smith Center’s website for show times and tickets.
Don Chareunsy is editor of VegasDeLuxe.com and senior editor, arts and entertainment, of LasVegasSun.com.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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