It’s Wicked Good!

wickedSome reviews write themselves, and this is one of them. Wicked has flown into the Providence Performing Arts Center for their season opener, and it is every bit as captivating and magical as you would expect it to be. I knew I would enjoy myself because I am very familiar with this show, I know the music, and was fortunate enough to have seen it on Broadway with the original cast. What initially drew me to the show on Broadway was my slight Idina Menzel obsession, so I did worry that I would spend the entire evening comparing the two productions. Was I just enamored by the production because it was only the second Broadway musical I had seen? Would the show lose its luster for me now that I’m older? Would I spend the entire time comparing it to the original? I’m happy to say that my concerns were unfounded, and not only did this show stand the test of time for me, it is every bit as magical on the road as it is on the Great White Way.  

For those of you who don’t know, Wicked is based on Gregory Maguire’s novel of the same name. (But don’t let that stop you! This is one of those instances where the book is not better than its counterpart!) What was life like in Oz before Dorothy flew in? Elphaba (Jessica Vosk) is not the child her father wants, and is constantly asked to take care of her younger sister, Nessarose (Kristen Martin), who is confined to a chair. They are sent to school under the watchful eye of Madame Morrible (Wendy Worthington) where polar opposites Elphaba and Glinda (Amanda Jane Cooper) are placed as unlikely roommates in a  pairing that makes The Odd Couple look like a good idea.

The musical’s music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, of Pippin and Godspell fame, and Winnie Holzman. The set is still the original captivating set by Rhode Island’s own Eugene Lee. You walk into PPAC and take in the steampunk themed dragon that sits atop the stage. The map of Oz covers the stage, and once that curtain goes up, you are in Schwartz’s Oz 100%.  

Jessica Vosk has recently joined the national tour after a Broadway run in Fiddler on the Roof. Her performance was flawless, sent chills through the audience and she frequently had to finish songs over the applause from the audience. You expect to see that on Broadway, and this Broadway professional delivers. You go through all the emotions during her rendition of “I’m Not That Girl” and you soar as she literally soars over the audience in one of the greatest songs to close an act. I could listen to Jessica Vosk sing all day.

Amanda Jane Cooper’s Glinda is energetic and funny. She made this role every bit as memorable as Elphaba’s. When the two women join together to sing “For Good,” there is barely a dry eye in the audience.

The night I saw the show, Jeremy Woodward’s understudy took the stage as Fiyero. Anthony Festa did a beautiful job in this role. His voice is fabulous, and he’s as charming as he should be.

Stuart Zagnit can sing! The Wizard isn’t a part known for its crooner abilities, but wow did Zagnit hit it out of the park. I really enjoyed his performance.

Kristen Martin’s Nessarose was as good as it gets. I’m pretty sure no one can top her performance in this role, which frequently gets forgotten. Her voice needs to get onto a cast recording album now!

The other thing that is great about this show is the lessons we learn throughout it. Don’t judge a book by its cover, people who look different aren’t dangerous, and question authority. The Wizard has a particularly searing line for today’s political climate: “And where I come from, everyone knows, the best way to bring folks together is to give them a really good enemy!” And although we could make the argument that this line would have also been appropriate in 2003 when it was written, it shows the timelessness of a show like this. Audiences will never see Wicked as something outdated as its themes resonate with all of us.

Wicked is at PPAC until October 8th.  Call 401-421-ARTS (2787) for tickets or visit


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