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Play Review

Sunday, 11 December, 2011 9:50 AM

'WICKED' is a crowd pleaser at the Detroit Opera House

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Tiffany Haas and Anne Brummel in WICKED.

 

by Robert Powell
rpowell@powellassociates.com

 

|

DETROIT -- At the risk of sounding like a snob, I have to ask… since when did coming to the Detroit Opera House become a blue jeans and jean jacket, or khakis and plaid lumberjack shirt, affair? If you can't afford Saks Fifth Avenue, and who can in these economic times, the Salvation Army has an excellent selection of shirts with buttons for two or three dollars and jackets for five or so.

Suffice it to say that the contrast between the classic beauty of the opera house interior and the dress code sensibilities of half the suburbanites present was fairly extreme. I suppose that living in a society where the most sophisticated thing many of us get to do is go to Walmart or the mall doesn't really prepare us for the opera. Either that or I was simply overdressed.

We were seated fairly quickly when the theater opened. It was at this point that the excellent acoustics of the Detroit Opera House really presented themselves to us for the first time. The crowd was loud, really loud, and you could practically hear conversations from across the room were you able to discriminate them from the closer ones. Fortunately, when the lights dimmed and the Oz-mapped curtain raised, it was easy to ignore all the distractions as Glinda the Good Witch began her descent from the sky in her bubble.

As Glinda's bubble arrives on the stage the people of Oz pepper her with questions, "Is the Wicked Witch really dead?" Glinda assures them that she seems to be, that she was melted by water. Then after more frantic questioning, Glinda then admits she was once friends with the Wicked Witch, sort of.

The scene changes to the point in the past where both Glinda and Elphaba (the "Wicked Witch") were young and had been sent off to school. This begins the enchanting and spellbinding tale of Wicked, the behind the scenes activities and relationships you never saw in the Wizard of Oz.

The music was wonderful and the costumes were very beautiful. The stage sets and special effects, particularly the Wizard's facade, were extremely well done. The transitions were well-timed and only really obvious when they needed to be to support the story. Both Anne Brummel and Tiffany Haas (Elphaba and Glinda, respectively) gave inspired performances as actors, providing beautiful and chilling vocals throughout the entire play in both solos and duets. How they can sing so forcefully and with such range night after night is beyond the ability of those of us with mortal throats to understand. The rest of the cast was also excellent in supporting the tension between the two witches and their lives; it would be impossible in this brief review to give them their due.

The musical was simultaneously comedic and dramatic and, combined with the great acting and musical talent, supported the subtext of the play very well. The primary subtext was that good is often not as good as it seems and evil is often not understood to be what it actually is, or was. There is always a historical context and historical winners set the tone for what that context of good versus evil is going to be. In this particular case the Wicked Witch, Elphaba, was not wicked at all, but was the one who went to bat and fought for the animals that were being oppressed by the government of Oz, a government built on lies (the fraudulent Wizard). There was also a romantic subtext, but that was primarily used in support of the activist witch as she fought against and was pursued by the evil of the government as the play progressed.

This was an evening of great fun, music and stories at the Detroit Opera House and we would highly recommend both the musical WICKED and the venue to anyone who is interested in music, theater, or opera.

Get your tickets now! WICKED runs through Dec. 31 at the Detroit Opera House (1526 Broadway St. in Detroit, Mich.).

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT WICKED:

  • 200 pounds of dry ice is used per show on the road
  • 4-5 miles of cable are used on the road
  • The show has 90 wigs, using 70 during any given show
  • 1,000 feet of steel cable have been used to restring the flying monkey wings during year one of the Broadway run
  • The carpentry department on Broadway has about 175,000 pounds of scenery
  • During the first big "quick change," 17 actors change from the mob to students in 1.5 minutes
  • There are 179 different types and finishes of leather used in shoes, gloves, hats and costume trim

 

Ticket prices for the Detroit engagement of WICKED range from $39-$104 (includes facility fees) and go on sale Friday, August 19 at 10 a.m. at the Fisher Theatre box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Tickets will also be available for purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com/wicked
or www.BroadwayinDetroit.com, and by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787. Limited premium seats will be available at the box office only.

 

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

David Nathan Perlow and Anne Brummel in WICKED.

 

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