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Friday, August 26, 2011

Wicked" better than ever at the Bushnell
4 Stars
Theater: The William H. Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell Memorial Center
Location: 166 Capitol Ave. Hartford
Production: Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie
Holzman. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Directed by Joe
Mantello. Musical staging by Wayne Cilento. Orchestration by William
David Brohn. Sets by Eugene Lee. Costumes by Susan Hilferty. Lighting
by Kenneth Posner. Sound by Tony Meola. Music direction by P. Jason
Running time: 3 hours including a 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 6:30 p.m.,
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinee performances Saturday and
Sunday at 2 p.m., through Sunday, Sept. 11.
Tickets: From $59 to $1,013. Call 860-987-5900 or visit their website
Dee Roscioli ... Elphaba
Amanda Jane Cooper ... Glinda
Colin Hanlon ... Fiyero
Kevin McMahon ... Wizard of Oz
Randy Danson ... Madame Morrible
Paul Slade Smith ... Dr. Dillamond
Stefanie Brown ... Nessarose
Justin Brill ... Boq
HARTFORD -"Wicked" is back and better than ever.
Perhaps one litmus test for a smash hit is the price that a ticket can
command. At $1,013 for a premium seat, "Wicked" is an unmitigated hit.
Another sign of the show’s undeniable success is that even at those
prices, it is sold out through the weekend at the Bushnell Center for
the Performing Art’s 2,800-seat Mortensen Hall. That is one popular
musical phenomenon.

"Wicked," which opened on Broadway in 2005 and is still going strong
there, has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz of "Godspell" and
"Pippin" fame, while the book is written by the wonderful Winnie
Holzman of TV’s "thirtysomething" and "Once and Again," based on the
novel by Gregory Macquire.
It is a different take on L. Frank Baum’s beloved story, "The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
In "Wicked" Galinda, blonde, ambitious, and exceedingly popular, and
Elphaba, green, smart, and rejected, have yet to become Glinda the
Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West, and are roommates at Shiz

It’s hate at first sight, but eventually they learn to admire, care
for, and finally love each other. I have seen this production before
and always thought it was a love triangle between Galinda, Elphaba,
and the spoiled prince Fiyero.

This go round, however, it is evident that the real love story is
between the two very different witches.

On opening night Thursday the effervescently perky understudy Megan
Campanile played Galinda with confidence and didn’t miss a beat.
Dee Roscioli is stunning, powerful, and vulnerable as the
misunderstood, unnaturally, phosphorescently green and gifted Elphaba,
who is rejected by everyone because she isn’t normal.

They attend Shiz, where the only reason Elphaba is there is to
take care of her wheelchair-bound half sister, Nessarose, (Stefanie
Brown.) They have the same mom, but different dads. Nessarose’s dad is
the governor, while Elphaba’s her mother had an affair with mysterious
man who fed her mother a green elixir that made Elphaba green for

Randy Danson is glamorously conniving as the University’s
headmistress, Madame Morrible. She has a glorious exotic accent and
makes the most of it.

The Wizard of Oz is up to his old tricks, requiring that Elphaba do
his bidding before he grants her wish to help the animals that are
loosing their ability to speak.
Paul Slade Smith is touching as the goat professor Dr. Dillamond.
But the Wizard is all show and Elphaba is crushed. Kevin McMahon has a
showman’s pizzazz as the Wizard of Oz.

Along comes a lazy but handsome prince Fiyero, (Colin Hanlon) who at
first falls for the blonde and beautiful Galinda, but then goes for
the brains and realizes that it is Elphaba who he adores.
The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man all come into being
through very different circumstances than the original version, but
many of the locations, like the yellow brick road and the Emerald
City, remain.

In this version of the story, the Wicked Witch of the West gets some
extremely bad press. While she is trying to save the animals, those in
power convince the masses that Elphaba is evil.
It’s an interesting take on that classic tale, but the music and the
lyrics are really what packs the house.

The songs are first rate, with tunes such as "Popular," "Unlimited,""No One Mourns the Wicked," "Wonderful," "I’m Not That Girl," and "Defying Gravity."
At first it was a little difficult to hear the singers over the
orchestra, but they settled down quickly. However, Hanlon as Fiyero
rushed his lines and mumbled his words and was difficult to

The ensemble is just "fantabulous," with distinct personalities
assisted by many asymmetric, eccentric, and unique costumes, Dr.
Seuss-like hats and wacky and wonderful wigs. Costumes by Susan

The bones of the set, with their nightmarish metal frame, remain the
same as the previous North American tour, but the lights seem brighter
and the Emerald City seems even more emerald. Set by Eugene Lee.
One of my complaints at opening nights at the Bushnell is that often
the spotlights would miss their intended spot, but thankfully that
wasn’t an issue on Thursday.

"Wicked" deserves all the accolades it receives and this fine
production more than lives up to the high expectations.

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