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  WINDY CITY TIMES

THEATER REVIEW Wicked
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2017-12-11

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Playwright: Winnie Holzman ( book ), Stephen Schwartz ( music & lyrics )

At: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Tickets: 800-775-2000; BroadwayInChicago.com; $62-$212. Runs through: Jan. 21

It seems impossible that it's been 12 years since Wicked first came to Chicago for an historic multi-year run.

For this seven-week return visit ( not the first ), the opening-night audience indicated that the primary fan base of pre-adolescent and teenage girls remains solidly intact. That's great for business but less good for the show's adult message that, alas, is more apparent than ever before: a powerful cautionary tale about the rise of fascism.

Few adults in the audience could doubt that the Wizard—the charming snake-oil salesman who gives people what they want—is Donald Trump, eager ( not merely willing ) to manipulate fear and bigotry to give the white humans of Oz something to hate. First they came for the animals, then for green people, then for Moslems, Jews, LGBTQs, teachers, artists ... and then they came for me. That's pretty much how it goes and that's precisely how it's going in the Oz of Wicked. One cannot avoid comparing Wicked to our present dystopian national reality.

Wicked remains an energetic juggernaut, still looking polished and good and still offering high-caliber performances. To their credit, the producers have not let standards slip. Even so, Wicked does not have the freshness of 2005 as the show itself has become familiar, and this is not a brand-new sit-down company created just for Chicago. Although that's to be expected, it will not matter to legions of young attendees seeing it for the first time.

Ginna Claire Mason ( as Glinda ) and Mary Kate Morrisey ( as Elphaba ) are attractive and bright performers with voices matching the style and quality of the originals, so familiar from recordings. Making certain there is nothing lacking in the voices or the voice types also is a responsibility of the producers, and one they've taken seriously. Mason and Morrisey do not have quite the vocal size of some earlier star witches, but they have enough to get the job done and to please. Morrisey's acting of Elphaba also is particularly effective.

Jon Robert Hall ( does everyone in this show have three names? ) acts and sings capably and with the requisite charm as a tall, blond and built Fiyero ( sometimes Fiyero is darker and smaller ), the crucial swing character who discovers his true heart as he finds his way through the story's shifting politics. Hall has great triceps, too.

Familiar TV performer Tom McGowan is the deceptively affable Wizard. McGowan is pleasant, but doesn't have the song-and-dance chops or implied dark edge brought to the role in 2005 by Gene Weygandt. As Madame Morrible, perhaps the show's true badie, it's a pleasure to see Broadway veteran Judy Kaye. No wizard is or ever was can bring Wicked down.


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