Wicked

An election-year return to Oz finds the hit musical packing an extra punch

I put a spell on you: Glinda (Tiffany Haas) and Elphaba (Anne Brummel) go hex to hex in <i>Wicked</i>
I put a spell on you: Glinda (Tiffany Haas) and Elphaba (Anne Brummel) go hex to hex in Wicked

Wicked

Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman, 471-2787
Through Feb. 12
Running time: 2 hr., 45 min.

Oz was an adolescent fascination of mine. I begged for ruby slippers at age 4, sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at 9, synched Pink Floyd to the classic film at 13, and obsessed over the Broadway musical Wicked at 15.

L. Frank Baum's turn-of-the-century tale of brains, heart, and courage has worked its way into our national psyche, surfacing nowhere as spectacularly as in Wicked, a reimagining that chronicles the pre-Dorothy friendship of the witches of Oz. If you're unfamiliar with this 2003 adaptation, you haven't been paying attention; with music by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, Wicked has found that there's no place like pop culture. Its soundtrack has sold more than 2 million copies, and the original cast's leading witches Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda) and Idina Menzel (Elphaba, or the Wicked Witch of the West) have soaked up prime-time coverage on Fox's popular television series Glee.

The second national tour of the show comes with the bells and whistles you'd see on the Great White Way, especially fabulous, flamboyant costumes by Susan Hilferty, a stunning, ever-ticking, clock-themed set by Eugene Lee, and lurid lighting by Kenneth Posner. The touring cast manages to inch out of the original cast's shadows; Tiffany Haas plays Glinda with a remarkable emotional range, and Anne Brummel gives Elphaba a refreshing femininity. Haas and Brummel have powerful onstage chemistry, charming the audience with physical comedy and an exceptionally good vocal blend. The ensemble lends support with an airtight performance, though Catherine Charlebois as Elphaba's sister Nessarose (the slipper-wearing witch Dorothy lands on) and Dan Pacheco as her munchkin beau Boq steal the stage in the second act. I think it's safe to say that the euphoric, largely female audience packed into Bass Concert Hall last Thursday night loved every wonderous minute of the performance.

Though I initially felt pretty angsty about revisiting my Oz phase, I was surprised to find myself on the edge of my seat, noticing a deep political dimension I hadn't considered seriously before. In Wicked, the portly, grey-haired Wizard of Oz (Don Amendolia) is a not-so-wonderful politician who has become so hooked on power that he fabricates a common enemy to rally fearful Ozians behind him. "The truth is not a thing of fact or reason," he chortles. "The truth is just what everyone agrees on." Before you dismiss Wicked, keep in mind that this musical is more than just smoke and mirrors. For me, this election-year tour packed an extra punch.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Jillian Owens
Exhibitionism
One Night With Janis Joplin
Zach makes this soulful portrait of the blues-rock queen an exhilarating concert that'll have you on your feet

Aug. 2, 2013

Exhibitionism
Little Shop of Horrors
This year's Zilker Summer Musical swaps the Swiss Alps for Skid Row, but it's as hugely entertaining as ever

July 26, 2013

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Wicked, Broadway Across America, Texas Performing Arts, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Glee, Tiffany Haas, Anne Brummel, Catherine Charlebois, Dan Pacheco, Don Amendolia

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle