No one plays the villain in his or her own life story. Everything is a matter of perspective based on circumstance. This kernel of truth has helped propel Wicked—the origin story of The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West—to nearly unrivaled Broadway success over the past 12 years. The Wicked touring company’s latest stop at the Paramount Theatre proves the show's musical magic is still as spellbinding as ever.
Wicked's story follows Elphaba (Alyssa Fox), the green-skinned illegitimate daughter of the governor of Muchkinland, as she heads off to university to study and look after her wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose (Liana Hunt). A series of miscommunications leaves the social pariah Elphaba rooming with the bubbly blonde queen bee Glinda (Carrie St. Louis). The pair instantly clashes; especially since Elphaba is allowed to study sorcery while Glinda is not, despite it being her burning desire. As the duo’s friendship finally begins to blossom, Elphaba gets caught up trying to save Oz’s animals (who are losing their ability to talk) with the aid of Glinda’s dashing boyfriend Fiyero (Michael Devries). Government spin regarding her actions leads Oz citizens to view her as a wicked witch.
Fox achieves the proper levels of discomfort and righteous anger as Elphaba, and she’s able to really showcase the character’s transformation when she sings “Defying Gravity.” As Glinda, St. Louis’s silly shallow vapidity hits the mark with tunes like “Popular,” but she’s still able to convey heartfelt concern when things don’t turn out how she perfectly dreamed them. And while Fiyero isn’t the most evenly written character, Devries brings a delightful Hemsworth-ian charm to the part. Both leads soar when deliver Stephen Schwartz’s musical numbers—Fox captures the emotional uncertainty in Elphaba’s songs, while St. Louis lets her voice loose to display Glinda’s unabashed confidence—and it all culminates with the emotionally stirring climactic duet “For Good.”
The set design plays on a clockwork motif that’s vaguely steampunk. While the backdrop feels fairly unremarkable, production elements like the Wizard of Oz’s robotic metal head and the way Elphaba is framed by beams of light when flying dazzle (the mechanical smoke-breathing dragon that hangs over the stage serves no purpose other than being really cool).
Wicked remains as enchanting as it was the day it first hit the stage. Whether you’re a frequent visitor or have yet to take the trip, it’s worth making this journey to the Land of Oz.
Thru Aug 12, Paramount Theatre, $30–$205