The play “Wicked” has been the biggest hit on Broadway for the past several months. Shoshana Bean has recently reprised the role of Elephaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, once played by Idina Menzel. Jennifer Laura Thompson plays Glinda the Good Witch in this Broadway production of Gregory Maguireʼs bestselling novel “Wicked.” The production takes place in the Gershwin Theater under the direction of James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander. The set is a mystifying and beautiful representation of the setting of the story. Thompson arrives just as Glinda does in the movie, in a glittering bubble, to tell the Munchkinlanders of Elphabaʼs troubling fate. She then tells the story of their friendship and more importantly, the truth behind Elphaba ʼs life and the unfortunate events that led up to her death. The best moments are between Bean and Thompson. They have incredible on stage chemistry, especially in songs such as “Popular,” a hilarious scene in which Glinda tries to make-over the green girl sheʼs forced to dorm with at college. Thompson is hysterical, playing into the cliche that Glinda is ever-so-popular and constantly adored. The most endearing and incredibly heartwarming song is their final duet, “For Good,” in which they thank one another for being in each otherʼs lives and for the way they have been changed because of the friendship they share. Bean steps perfectly into this role. Her voice is outstanding, booming through the theater, effectively hitting every powerful note, amazing the audience. She sings with incredible emotion and brought thunderous applause to fill the theater each time she sang, always ending with a high note. The rest of the cast supports her in every way, from the Wizard himself (played by George Hearn) to the Munckinlanders.
Thompson stuns at just how perfectly she fills Glindaʼs shoes, adding a dose of laughs and depth to the Good Witch, giving her more range than anyone would have thought. Sheʼs constantly torn by “being the perfect person everyone adores her to be” and by her loyalty to her friend Elphaba, who touched her life more than anyone else ever had. She also has a beautiful voice that emphasizes her role as adored, yet tortured by the fate of her friend. Thompson is no stranger to leading roles: sheʼs been nominated for a Tony for her work in the acclaimed “Urinetown” a few years ago, and should be nominated again for this role. Her comical genius and breathtaking voice are what makes her scenes so brilliant.
The show challenges “The Wizard of Oz,” asking the audience which is better when itʼs over. This story tells the true heart behind the wickedness, the story of a girl who just wanted to be loved, who wanted the truth to be known. The play brings out how the Tin Man had no heart, why the Cowardly Lion had no courage, and how the Scarecrow came to be. It incorporates Dorothy and her adventures, but shows the true side of the Wicked Witch of the West.
The story is played out with glorious music numbers, including some of the other highlights of the show ” Iʼm Not That Girl,” in which Elphaba wishes Fiyero (David Ayers) loved her, and then by Glinda when the situation is reversed. Other music numbers include, ” What is This Feeling?,” “The Wizard and I,” and “Wonderful.”
Other great moments come from the humor in the story, mostly from Thompson, and teasing the audience with details from “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Wicked” is a wonderful retelling of the Maguire novel and the widely known story of “The Wizard of Oz.” It turns the story into something different, a twist of events, with a lot of morale, heart, and surprises including ho Elphabaʼs father truly is, but itʼs too delicious to dish so youʼll just have to see the show. Most of all, the show is magical and unforgettable.