It's easy to see why the touring production of "Wicked" broke Celebrity Attractions' box-office records in Oklahoma City: The musical is a real crowd-pleaser.
Based on the Gregory Maguire novel, "Wicked" purports to tell "the untold story of the witches of Oz," making it a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz." Our heroines are two witches: the dowdy Elphaba, treated like an outcast due to her green skin, and the perky Glinda, whose picture-perfect blondeness makes her worshipped by her peers.
SETS AND SCORE
Originally produced on Broadway in 2003, "Wicked" comes to Oklahoma City with a production that looks top-notch. Its impressive sets are dazzling and tiered in such a three-dimensional manner that the stage is granted remarkable depth, and director Joe Mantello keeps every corner of it busy and bustling at all times.
The first half of the musical is particularly strong, and its opening scene of Glinda descending into Oz on a floating bubble strikes the right note of humor, with the good witch proclaiming to her people, "Isn't it great to see me? There's no need to respond; that was rhetorical."
With its considerably darker turns and muddled motivations, the second half doesn't move with assuredness and good-natured ease. Blame must fall on Winnie Holzman's script, but Stephen Schwartz's songs can't redeem it. "Wicked" seems front-loaded with the best tunes, even if "Popular" is the only one you'll be left humming.
The two lead performances remain stellar throughout. Victoria Matlock manages the difficult feat of making one of pop culture's most reviled characters into one who's instantly likable and sympathetic. She sports a great set of pipes.
But Christina DeCicco steals the show as Glinda. Perpetually bouncy, she clearly has fun with the role, and her enthusiasm is infectious. That she's absent for much of that second half is to the show's detriment.
However, the Thursday-night crowd with whom I saw it seemed to lap it all up, applauding each of the 21 musical numbers, laughing at all the jokes and giving "Wicked"'s cast a standing ovation come curtain. —Rod Lott