Review: ‘Wicked’ at The Kennedy Center

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Green seems to be the everlasting black for the blockbuster Broadway musical Wicked, as its national tour returns to The Kennedy Center’s Opera House this holiday season to tell The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz for a limited three and a half week engagement.

Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, a prequel and partial sequel to L. Frank Baum’s beloved The Wizard of Oz and its 1939 movie incarnation, Wicked illustriously illuminates what happened in the Land of Oz years before Dorothy arrives, revealing a surprising tale of an unlikely friendship between the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba), and Glinda the Good (Galinda).

Jeremy Woodard (Fiyero) and Jessica Vosk (Elphaba). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Directed by two-time Tony Award-winning director Joe Mantello, amplified with the thrilling musical score of Academy Award-winner Stephen Schwartz and Wayne Cilento’s dexterous musical staging, the juggernaut production recounts the odyssey of how Elphaba and Galinda first met as University sorcery students and, despite their initial rivalry, eventually evolve to become best friends.

Jessica Vosk (Elphaba). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Newcomer Jessica Vosk is sensational as the tragically misunderstood Elphaba.  In spite of being shunned – even by her own father – her Elphaba is strong-willed, smart and spirited from the get go.  A powerhouse singer, Vosk hits all the high notes with poise, power and passion, delivering “The Wizard and I, No Good Deed and For Good (duet with Glinda) to an awestruck audience;  her showstopping number “Defying Gravitywas chiefly compelling, garnering thunderous applause and exuberant cheers to the dramatic Act I finale.

Correspondingly, Amanda Jane Cooper is amusingly winsome as fantastically popular, stylish and perky G(a)linda. With her perfected giggle, unapologetic self-adoration and pronounced comedic physicality, which was memorably showcased in “Popular,” Cooper’s Galinda was reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods:  enormously entertaining and endearing.

Amanda Jane Cooper (Galinda) and Jessica Vosk. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Each member of the ensemble (whose roles varied from flying monkeys, university students, denizens of Emerald City, palace guards and other citizens of Oz) and supporting characters were similarly outstanding: Jeremy Woodard was both bracing and earnest as a conflicted Fiyero; Chad Jennings was stately and dignified as the animal professor Doctor Dillamond;  Broadway veteran Isabel Keating was commanding and brash as a cynical Madame Morrible;  and TV and Broadway veteran Fred Applegate was amiable and charming as the ethically-challenged Wizard. Likewise, Andy Mientus was a loyal and stalwart Boq and Kristen Martin was keenly measured as Elphaba’s wheelchair-bound sister, Nessarose.

Staggeringly grand with eye-popping visuals, sparkling tunefulness, and finely-calibrated choreography, Wicked is a divinely magical production in every respect, well-deserving of its spell-binding success.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

Wicked plays through January 8, 2017, at The Kennedy Center’s Opera Theater – 2700 F Street, in Washington, DC.  For tickets, call (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.

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