‘Wicked’ lands in South Bend
Caelin Miltko | Monday, September 12, 2016
Theatre season at Notre Dame is currently in the eye of the dramatic storm. The Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival concluded before the end of August, and the first FTT plays won’t premiere until the very end of the month. But the drought on campus need not be the end of the story for theatre-goers — the Morris Performing Arts Center has already begun its fall theatre schedule.
The national touring production of “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” began its run at the Morris last week. The play is based on a 1995 novel of the same name that also resurrects the character of The Wicked Witch of the West.
In “Wicked,” her name is Elphaba, and she is tragically misunderstood, strong-willed and green. At Shiz University, where most of the plot takes place, she rooms with her exact opposite, the fantastically popular, fashionable and blonde Galinda (later Glinda the Good).
The parts were originated in the Broadway production of “Wicked” by Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth as Galinda, and “Defying Gravity” quickly became the most identifiable tune from the soundtrack.
The version of “Defying Gravity” by Amanda Jane Cooper (Galinda) and Jessica Vosk (Elphaba) is compelling, though difficult to compare to Menzel and Chenoweth’s rendition readily available on Spotify.
Highlights from the South Bend show, however, included two slightly less famous numbers. Cooper’s rendition of “Popular” was perfectly adolescent. If her “Valley Girl lift” could be a bit much at times when she was speaking (though it gave her the perfect giggle in response to her first meeting with Fiyero), it was ideal for this song. She was fantastically physical, flouncing and twirling across the stage and on her and Elphaba’s beds.
Vosk’s version of “No Good Deed” was equally wonderful — she took over the stage with ease and her anger and heartbreak were tangible throughout the performance. The end of this musical number garnered the largest applause of the night Sept. 8.
The supporting characters were particularly strong — the few solos performed by Nessarose (Elphaba’s sister) make you wish Kristen Martin had more opportunity to show off her voice.
Overall, the show was wickedly wonderful. Madame Morrible (Wendy Worthington) was not overly remarkable at her first appearance. But by the end, when her voice transformed to mimic the traditional Wicked Witch of the West, she was one of the strongest characters.
Fortunately, perhaps, the most negative aspects of the show have nothing to do with the production itself.
The Morris does not have a consistent policy against allowing people to enter the show late, and unfortunately that meant several large groups were allowed to enter the theatre five to 15 minutes after the show began. Despite warnings at the beginning of the show, a cellphone did go off 10 minutes into the performance. At the end, several groups left before the final bows were taken.
Perhaps most shocking to me, however, was the fact a woman sat behind me and sang along to all of her favorites from the soundtrack, including “Defying Gravity.” It is, unfortunately, the most memorable part about that particular number for me.
I mention these annoyances not because they ruined the production for me (“Wicked” was still a great experience), but to remind anyone who attends a live performance this year (or ever) to remember the rules of theatre etiquette.
Arrive on time, silence or turn off your phones, stay in your seats to applaud the performance (unless it was truly awful) and remember you aren’t the only one in the audience. Singing along is only appropriate when encouraged to do so by the performer. These things are not merely marks of respect for your fellow audience members, but also for the performers. It actually makes their job harder when there are multiple distractions in the audience.
Despite these points, the performance of “Wicked” was definitely worth the trip into downtown South Bend.
Tickets for “Wicked” at the Morris are available online at their website and the show runs through Sept 18. Tickets prices range between $25 and $139.