“Wicked” opened Thursday at the Orpheum in Minneapolis.
Really, do you need more of a review than that?
Green-skinned Elphaba and bubbly Glinda have flown into the gilded Broadway pantheon alongside Simba, the Phantom, Jean Valjean and Alexander Hamilton as unimpeachable icons of musical theater. “Wicked” hit $1 billion on Broadway faster than any show ever. Worldwide sales have topped $4 billion since 2003.
The tour that alit at the Orpheum is booked for 4½ weeks, and ticket sales are reportedly brisk. And in other news, Pope Francis is Catholic.
So what is it about this juggernaut that does not disappoint, even three or four or 50 times around? Start with the flipping stage spectacle, the sets, the props, the costumes, the glitter, the production numbers — including “Defying Gravity,” which remains the greatest first-act closer I’ve ever seen.
That song is part of the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz, who struck gold in the Emerald City. Ditties such as “No Good Deed” and “Wonderful” and, of course, “For Good” are worth waiting for, even deep in the second act.
Finally, undergirding it all and flooding every image, there is this movie called “The Wizard of Oz.” You’ve heard of it? “Wicked” cheekily tells a back story about the Wicked Witch of the West, her sister of the East, her erstwhile pal Glinda the Good Witch, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. We really can never get too much Oz.
In Winnie Holzman’s often tongue-in-cheek book and the staging by Joe Mantello, Elphaba and Glinda meet at boarding school. The green girl is an outcast, the blonde oh-so-popular. They become friends, then complications arise, and Elphaba finds her mission in life.
I’m not out to change anyone’s plans to see “Wicked,” but they’re paying me to cast the critic’s gimlet eye, so here goes: The Orpheum production, with Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda and Jessica Vosk as Elphaba, didn’t really crackle Thursday night. The chemistry wasn’t sparking until Vosk set a fire with “The Wizard and I,” and there were too many lumpy moments. Vosk is the real deal, while Mason is fetching and funny as Glinda but reedy at the top of her voice.
Fred Applegate is an avuncular, jolly old Wizard; Isabel Keating a frightful harridan as Madame Morrible, and Jeremy Woodard is handsome enough for the male ingénue, Fiyero.
The slight slack Thursday allowed us to wonder, though, during the soggy second act, how Elphaba, a spunky outsider on a quest, turns into just another girl struck by romance.
Will that stinging criticism change your plans? Yeah, right. This is one of the century’s phenomenal successes, and despite flaws, it will always be “Wicked.”
Graydon Royce is a longtime Star Tribune theater critic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.