Nancy Sasso Janis
“There are bridges you cross
You didn't know you crossed
Until you've crossed...
So I couldn't be happier
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true
Well, isn't it?” - Glinda in “Thank Goodness”
Wallingford, CT - The tour of ‘Wicked The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz’ landed at Toyota Presents Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford on the final day of November and runs through December 11 with a total of 16 big performances. Marc Platt, Universal Stage Productions, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone launched this large production. The Oakdale theatre campus is dressed in green in honor of this magical event and the Thursday night performance was very well attended by many young, very well-behaved patrons. One young lady in our row knew every single word to “Popular.”
I am thankful that I have seen the Stephen Schwartz modern classic with the book by Winnie Holzman (‘thirtysomething’) on Broadway with a middle school field trip and then a few years later brought my other teenager to see the touring company when it came to the Bushnell for the third time. I have made no secret that I am of the opinion that ‘Wicked’ is the best musical ever. Elphaba and the show’s logo is the background of my smartphone, I own the sheet music of the entire score, “The Wizard and I” is my audition piece, I was thrilled when the composer shared some background information at an appearance I covered….you get the idea.
So to say my expectations of this tour were high is a bit of an understatement. I have never seen a theatrical production at this venue and my companion was impressed by the look of the physical space on his first visit. The tour took advantage of larger space than what is available in the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway and what my son dubbed the “God” lighting for “Defying Gravity” was the best I have ever seen anywhere.
“Thank Goodness” I was impressed with everything about this touring company. The ensemble that played the flying monkeys, Shiz students, Denizens of the Emerald City (in the best costumes ever!) and the Palace Guards did not miss a step or a note. Chase Madigan played the monkey Chistery that wears the wings that grow onstage and Wayne Schroder was the tall Ozian Official. Tregoney Shepherd was the midwife that delivers the green baby, while Wayne Schroder and Kerry Blanchard played her shocked parents. Fred Applegate (who was in ‘Wicked’ on Broadway) was charming as the flawed Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Jeremy Woodard oozed charm as Fiyero and reminded me of Neil Patrick Harris for some reason. Chad Jennings donned the horns as the animal professor Doctor Dillamond. Broadway vet Isabel Keating was commanding and magical as Madame Morrible. Andy Mientus (‘Spring Awakening’ on Broadway) was the loyal Boq (not ‘Bic’,) while Kristen Martin (original cast of ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) played the handicapped sister Nessarose. The latter did well on “The Wicked Witch of the East,” the only number that was not included on the original Broadway cast recording because the producers felt it included too much dialogue and would give some of the plot away.
Amanda Jane Cooper, who returns to the metal bubble after playing Glinda on the first national tour, was beautiful as the perky G(a)linda the Good Witch. One quibble was that I thought that she understated a bit the line “I mean they’re shoes...let it go” so that some may have missed it. Jessica Vosk, just off her run as Fruma Sarah in Broadway’s revival of ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ was just as good as the misunderstood Elphaba. I loved her take on the powerful “No Good Deed.” The two were at their comic best for “What is this Feeling?” and “Popular,” and the soaring “For Good” gave me the usual chills.
Eugene Lee designed the settings and Oz never looked better. Costumes by Susan Hilferty and wigs and hair by Tom Watson were divine and Kenneth Posner gets the credit for the spectacular lighting design. Sound by Tony Meola was good and projections by Elaine J. McCarthy quite impressive.
The traveling orchestra of five, under the admirable conductor Dan Micciche, welcome nine local musicians who play at all performances. The musician next to me did not like the amplification of their work, but I thought they played the Schwartz score that I adore beautifully. Orchestrations by William David Brohn (Tony Award for ‘Ragtime,) music supervisor Stephen Oremus (‘Kinky Boots, The Book of Mormon’) and musical staging by Wayne Cilento did not go unnoticed. Joe Mantello was the director and I learned that he earned Tony nominations as an actor when he appeared in both ‘Angels in America’ and ‘The Normal Heart.’
If you have never seen ‘Wicked,’ and even if you have, I urge you to try to attend one of the remaining performances in Wallingford. Oakdale is located at 95 S. Turnpike Road in Wallingford and is pretty easy to find. There is free parking located at the back of the large parking lot, or for $20 one can take advantage of premium parking.