Broadway Across America and the Broward Center are currently offering a return engagement of the national tour of "Wicked" to Fort Lauderdale audiences.
The 2003 musical from composer Stephen Schwarz has been touring the United States since 2005 while still maintaining a healthy run on Broadway. "Wicked" has truly become one of America's favorite musicals and for good reason.
The plot is loosely based on Gregory Maguire's 1993 novel of the same name. It shows a different view of the events that happen just prior to those told in the immortal story "The Wizard of Oz."
We meet Glinda, a spoiled rich girl and Elphaba, an unloved and underappreciated girl whose skin is a shocking shade of green, as they arrive to their first day of school. They are put together as roommates and instantly loathe on another, but through many plot machinations the two eventually become friends.
The 1993 novel on which the musical is based is very political in its story telling. The only real surviving political theme in the book of the musical is the crusade for animal rights. This is one of the central themes of the musical where Elphaba feels pity for the animals who are losing their ability to speak and are losing their place in society.
This production features a stellar cast. Christine Dwyer in the role of Elphaba displays a powerful voice with a very clear high belt. The first act finale number, "Defying Gravity" is extremely challenging to sing and Dwyer handled it perfectly. Dwyer is a superstar in the making with a voice that delivers time and time again throughout this vocally taxing role.
The role of Glinda was written for Kristin Chenoweth and stepping into another actresses tailor made role is always a difficult thing to do but Jeanna de Waal managed to put her own stamp on her performance of this character. While it is nearly impossible not to hear Chenoweth's voice in your mind when anyone performs the overly catchy act one number "Popular," de Waal took this oft heard song and let the audience know right away she was making it her own. Her light, lilting soprano voice was constantly a delight throughout the show.
In the role of Fiyero, Billy Harrigan Tighe sang and danced as beautifully as he looked on stage. His classically handsome looks were perfect against de Waals pert blondness and Dwyer's heavily made up green-ness.
The entire cast was filled with strong performances including Gina Ferrall as Madame Morrible, Michael Wartella as Boq, Zarah Mahler as Nessarose and Paul Kreppel as the Wizard. The sets by Eugene Lee and the costumes by Susan Hilferty are direct from the Broadway production and in fact, this tour is bringing a little bit of Broadway to audiences all over America.
If you haven't seen "Wicked" yet, this is your chance to see a first class production of it. If you have seen it, this production will not disappoint, but will have you leaving the theater humming the songs with a smile on your face and a little bit of green in your heart.
"Wicked" runs through Feb. 17 at the Broward Center, 201 SW 5th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. For info or tickets, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org