WICKED (National Tour at Academy of Music): Something wizard this way comes

The National Touring Company of WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The National Touring Company of WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“They’re just shoes—let it go.” The shoes are the ruby slippers that some farmgirl stole from a dead body, thereby launching the revenge of the Wicked Witch of the West and one of best loved stories of American girlhood.

First there was L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and the many sequels about the adventures of Dorothy, Toto, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. Then there was Wicked, the clever novel by Gregory Maguire, a prequel to the Oz stories explaining how the witch got to be wicked. And that brings us to this big, smart, gorgeous show, Wicked, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, now back in town.

With surprising subtlety, we learn many important lessons:  witches turn wicked when they are bullied, isolated as outsiders, and mocked because of the color of their skin; power misused is tyranny; when teachers’ voices are censored, the world becomes a dangerous place; cruelty to animals diminishes our humanity; true love is based on more than good looks, even when the looks are as good Wayne Schroder’s who plays Fiyero (his curtain call began with shrieks of girlish glee).

Most of all, WICKED is about the importance of female friendship: Elphaba (the excellent Jessica Vosk) and Glinda (Ginna Claire Mason adorably channeling both Clueless and Legally Blonde) sing “For Good,” a tender duet about how deeply these two girls change each other, not only for the good but for all time.

Everyone is in fine voice, including Elphaba’s wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose (Jenny Florkowski), the sorceress Madame Morrible (Isabel Keating), source of plot-creating significant weather, and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (old-timey song-and-dance man Fred Applegate). The sets are lavish, the stagecraft is spectacular, and WICKED satisfies every requirement for a Big Broadway Musical.

[Academy of Music, Broad & Locust Streets] July 26-August 27, 2017kimmelcenter.org.

Tickets: $77-$565 (!)


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About the author

Toby Zinman

Toby Zinman is Professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a Fulbright professor at Tel Aviv University and a visiting professor in China. She publishes widely and lectures internationally on American drama. Her fifth book, Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined, was recently published by Methuen, and she has just finished an essay, "Visions of Tragedy in Contemporary American Drama," due out in 2017. Zinman is also the chief theater critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. She was named by American Theatre magazine as, “one of the 12 most influential critics in America.” Her travel writing has taken her all over the world, from dogsledding in the Yukon to hiking across England.