Review: WICKED First National Tour Brings In The New Year To Los Angeles

By Mitch Friedman – EXCLUSIVE for BroadwayisWICKED

From its very opening, the New Year’s Eve show of WICKED in Los Angeles promised to be a good one. The citizens of Oz, who opened the show, seemed to have the magic— they just seemed on. The tour arrived in Los Angeles November 30th and took only Mondays off until the schedule changed for the holidays to Monday through Saturday with two shows on Wednesday and Friday. The cast was looking forward to two days off in a row for New Years.

Katie Rose Clarke (Glinda) was strong as she bubbled down in the opening, and the audience could feel the energy from her and the rest of the cast. When Mamie Parris (Elphaba) made her entrance, the energy level stepped up even more. Parris was amazing in “The Wizard and I” giving a powerful performance. Clarke and Parris nailed “What Is This Feeling”—plainly, they were having a lot of fun performing this evening. Paul Slade Smith (Dr. Dillamond) was strong as well with the Goat sounds and saying GGGGlinda, the best this reviewer has heard during the run of the show. “Dancing Through Life” shone as Kyle Dean Massey (Fiyero) and the cast gave a superb dance performance. Massey and Clarke played well off each other. Watching Parris enter and start to dance to no music and Clarke come over to cut in was really fun. Their performance just flowed for the rest of the number. Clarke and Parris brought it up another notch with “Popular.” Clarke appears to have taken the best of Kristin Chenoweth and Megan Hilty, in my opinion, the two best Glindas, and combines them to do this number as she adds her own touches—she is a lot of fun to watch. This evening, Parris nailed this number as well, making the toss-toss one of the funniest I have seen her do. This performance reminded me of the one in which Megan Hilty and Eden Espinosa started laughing during the number and could not stop. When Massey and Parris run off with the lion cub, they are, once again, great together. The cast’s energy level just seemed to grow from there on as the show just got better and better.  By the time Parris sings “Defying Gravity”, she is right on, the best I have heard from her so far and after being under the weather most of the week.

The Citizens of Oz opened Act 2 with as much energy as in Act 1, doing “No One Mourns The Wicked”. Parris, Cristy Candler (Nessarose) and Justin Brill (Boq) are fantastic in “The Wicked Witch of the East”. Candler is an outstanding Nessarose, powerful and at ease in the roll. When Candler fell to the ground, she did so with grace. When she said,  “No don’t help me” as she got up, she really conveyed an inner strength. Brill is so good in his roll that the audience believes he is a munchkin. When Nessarose does the spell to shrink his heart, Brill convinces the audience that it’s real. Candler has a beautiful voice and shines when she sings “Save Him”.

Mark Jacoby (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) is also really good; when he does “Wonderful” he has the audience laughing over his leg kick and foot shuffle. Jacoby brings much to the roll, a good voice that goes well Parris’s voice as they sing parts of “Wonderful” together. Likewise, Parris and Massey are well-matched as they sing ”As Long as You’re Mine”. When Parris says she feels wicked, and the two kiss, the audience goes wild.

The actors did not lose their stride when, as their characters said their good-byes to Nessarose, a child in the audience started screaming. This did not faze either of them, and Clarke and Parris kept their dialogue going as the child was taken out of the theater. The two actors also handle the fight scene really well, with convincing slaps to one another.  Clarke knows how to spin Glinda’s wand with finesse. Parris’s voice got stronger and stronger as the show went on, and she really belted out “No Good Deed”. The two were simply wonderful together performing “For Good” as the show neared the end. The whole cast put on a great performance in the final number.

I had a chance to chat with Mamie Parris (Elphaba) after the show, and I inquired if I could ask her some questions for Broadway is Wicked.  She repeated Broadway is Wicked in a very cool way and said she likes that saying. She said she and Katie were both fighting chest colds and they were trying to switch shows off so that they would not both be off for the same show. She also said she heard people in the audience coughing more, so she felt something was going around.  She added that she had a handle on it (her cold) and was feeling better now.

Ms Parris spent a nice and quiet Christmas in Los Angeles. For New Year’s she, her husband, and their dog are going to go up the coast and plan on hanging out at the beach in the sun and warm weather. She was happy to hear that out of all the shows I have seen during this run that I felt they had the most energy and were just on it today. We both said almost in unison it was like the cast was ready for the two and half days off until they are back on the stage.


Review: WICKED London farewell and welcome cast shows

by Sarah

The dreaded day had finally come, Wicked Cast Change December 10th 2011
For those who don’t know, every year in the cast change matinee show there are lots of subtle (and some not so subtle!) changes made to the show but they are done in such a way that it does not ruin it for anyone who is there for the first time. What does ruin the show, however [gets into rant mode] are the groups of people who think it is perfectly acceptable to screech and squeal their way through the show so that others cannot hear it.

A little whoop at the beginning we will let you away with, it is cast change and the

festive season after all… and a nice bit of cheering at the end is always welcome. But when you have people squealing like banshees throughout it starts to wear thin and it must be very distracting for the performers [end of rant mode].

So what happened differently?

In “What is This Feeling”, Elphaba looked absolutely horrified when she saw the reflection of herself in Glinda’s mirror.

When Elphaba Does her dance in the Ozdust ballroom, instead of waving her arms around, she did some break dancing and rolled on the floor. We then had a classic Glinda confused face and then she got down on the floor and copied. When Boq stormed off stage he wailed “It’s Boq! And I can’t do this anymore… Toss… Toss”. Daniel and Joe were only wearing some of their costumes so flesh was exposed. I liked that bit! 😉 and Jennifer said her lines in a Scottish accent “yes you doooooooo”.

In “Popular” when Glinda throws her wand offstage, somebody threw it back on.

The toss toss laugh was back! Glinda was stroking Elphie’s hair. When Fiyero next saw Elphaba he said “you’ve been Galindafield toss toss” and then did the Toss Toss giggle!

In the Lion Cub scene when Fiyero runs back onstage with the lion cub, Glinda ran on after him.

In the station scene, Fiyero gave Elphie a green envelope instead of the red bunch of flowers

In “As Long as You’re Mine” Elphaba and Fiyero had a huge kiss at the end and then Elphaba threw herself on him.

At the end of the “Wicked Witch of the East” scene, Elphaba ended her bit with “I have done everything I could for you and it hasn’t been enough and, frankly my dear,

I don’t give a damn”.

At Curtain Call Elphaba and Glinda came on wearing bright coloured glasses and did the “Morecambe and Wise walk” onstage. When the curtain was coming down, Fiyero did a Bootilicious Beyonce booty wiggle dance!

The evening (i.e. last) show

It was an amazing show with all the little riffs, squeals etc. that we have all come to love from the performers. It was vocally mind-blowing and very special. Lovely entrance applause for ages when Glinda came down in her bubble and looked very emotional. Fiyero was fantastic throughout. The Dancing Through Life was probably the best one I have ever seen. I really like Mark as a performer and his dancing and singing seems so effortless. He has a really beautiful voice.

“For Good” was so emotional and it was clear they were singing it as Rachel and Louise, not Elphaba and Glinda. It was beautiful and towards the end they got very choked up and had a huge hug at the end. You could have heard a pin drop throughout. Louise and Rachel work amazingly well together but there has always been such a great chemistry between the cast, they are friends and that comes across on stage. The ensemble and swings are also fantastic and they will be greatly missed. Such a talented bunch, we have lost some great dancers!

Executive Producer, Michael McCabe came on at the end and gave a speech about the leavers, Rachel then did one about Louise saying that she worships the ground she walks on. Louise said she had painted her nails with “get a grip”. Loads of the cast were crying, as were many in the audience!

The stage door after the show was very busy but a great atmosphere and the cast were lovely, as always. Sad to see them go.

First show of the new cast Monday 12th December 2011

The new posters and cast board were up at the theatre and there was an air of anticipation in the crowd of what was to come.

On the “catfight” photo Glinda (now played by Gina Beck) looks all angry and mean so I had an impression in my mind of what she was going to be like, but this was not how she plays her at all. Some Glinda’s are arrogant and bitchy but Gina is more of an American-style Glinda in a way. She looked so cute (and petite) when she came down in the bubble and has a beautiful voice. She does a little shoulder wiggle when she does the Toss Toss which is adorable. It is a totally different kind of portrayal to what we have been used to, there is no squealing and she is posh. Very posh! She plays a very young Glinda but this works. My favourite bit for me was “thank goodness”. Normally I find this song incredibly boring (whoever is playing Glinda) it is just a dull song but I loved Gina’s version. I hate over analysing but it seemed a real turning point to me in her Glinda journey and there was a real vulnerability there that really came out, she just looked a lost soul. It was really lovely. I did enjoy watching her, but it is very different portrayal and it will take a lot of getting used to, for me.

Fiyero (now played by Matt Willis) is going to be the Marmite role, but it always has been. He came out arms covered in tattoos, which looked a little strange, but in the book Fiyero is covered in markings so it is not as unusual as it first seems. This led to a more macho Fiyero. It’s clear the dancing and acting doesn’t come as naturally as Mark but the singing was fine.

Nessa (now played by Lillie Flynn) was the stand out for me; I thought she was really terrific. Beautiful voice and acting and she seemed very vulnerable. You would have thought she had been there for many months, I think she is going to be a huge star. Really liked her.

Boq (Adam Pettigrew) was very sweet and cute. I liked the way was always giving little shy glances at Glinda as if trying to catch her eye. He and Nessa looked like they will be a good pairing.

It was strange to see Desmond Barritt back as the Wizard again after a two year break. He was good, of course, but I did miss Clive’s silliness and Desmond seems more of a Granddad figure than a Dad to Elphaba.

Dr Dillamond (Christopher Howell) was good and I did prefer him to Julian. Nice voice and acting.

As for the Ensemble, it was strange to not see the familiar faces but they did a really good job. The witches father (Kieran Brown) was especially fantastic and I cannot wait to see some of the understudies get a chance at playing the lead roles. I am especially looking forward to seeing David Rudin and Oliver Watton as Fiyero, Andrew Bryant as Boq and Michelle Pentecost as Elphaba!

I had thought that maybe it was time for Rachel Tucker to leave but when she first ran out I realise it wasn’t, the new cast really need someone like her there. She is vocally outstanding and I would go so far to say that I think she is technically the best Elphaba that London has ever had. She should be winning award after award and would be, if it wasn’t for the theatre snobs.

So that concludes a mad weekend in Oz but what did YOU think? Tweet me @wicked_ldn_news and comment here as well. What do you think of the new cast? I will say, though, don’t write anyone off before you have seen them for yourself. Go along, support the show and make your own mind up.

WICKED Returns Triumphantly to the Pantages

BroadwayWorld has published a great review of WICKED, while it’s First National Tour family performs in Los Angeles until the end of January 2012.

Now in a return engagement at the Pantages, this scaled down tour of Wicked still catches fire, due mostly to a gifted cast.” – BWW Los Angeles

Read the full review here

via BBW

Review: First National Tour of Wicked

Today I’m most honor to review the First National Tour during their stop in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

It was Friday evening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale. It was my second time visiting the theatre and once again it was a full house. The crowd was anxiously waiting for the number one running show in Broadway.

Once I entered the room the usher gave me my Playbill and the insert announcing a new Glinda in the house, Miss Amanda Cooper. I took my seat, low Orchestra, row six in the middle. Perfect spot! (Booked three months in advance). While waiting for the show to commence I was already excited for two reasons: It was my first time seeing Wicked after over a year and secondly, because I always enjoy when a new main character comes on board -at that point I knew nothing about Amanda.

Conductor gave his wave to the orchestra and the magic began…

Overall, I felt that the show was superb solid which, surprisingly after so many times I’ve seen it and heard it, made it as crisp and new as the very first time back in 2006.  The entire cast soar the show into new dimensions and people responded equally with a standing ovation at the end. From the very beginning the entire ensemble was coming strong with a triumphant splendor that resembled the true spirit of the wonderful land of Oz. These performers were certainly blowing it away with an electric vibe that could amuse even the most avid Wicked fan.

Once Glinda’s bubble descended from the magical sky, sparks of talent where once again flying out into the room. Amanda Cooper, portraying the Good Witch of the North, delivered what I believe was one of the most memorable and engaging Glindas I’ve ever seen. Her comic timing and giddiness, proper of the blonde witch, was totally self-absorbing conveying the true soul and being of Glinda. Although this being her first week playing the role, her taking over the stage and her outstanding vocals gave no sensation of newbie-like staging but, on the contrary, a perfect character understanding and effervescent acting. Key in her success was her green co-star Jackie Burns. Jackie was simply perfect enabling her green-complexion character to be believable at all moments. Her voice certainly deserves a separate chapter. She has a true velvetine clash of impeccable vocals that knew how to captivate the entire audience into an hypnotic adventure of self-discovering and new friendships. Jackie Burns was simply jaw-dropping with a sweet and yet snarky take on Elphaba which I personally loved and was moved by in many occasions along the story.  Jackie’s was outstanding, and her singing was far beyond perfection, following each note handwritten by Schwartz creating a spellbiding connection with the audience. Other standouts included Stephanie Brown playing Nessarose who undeniably portrayed her as a cold yet scared and powerful Nessa, giving the character new dimensions and expressions. Also, Mark Jacoby as the charming and chary Wizard of Oz, who got to bring the character unseen features and expressions.

Colin Hanlon was a proper Fiyero with no dazzling moments but great comic-timing, while Randy Danson was an artful Madame Morrible willing to follow her own desires.

Overall, Wicked has proved once again why is the most seen show in Broadway and why it continues to be the most successful musical across America. The First National Tour left Ft. Lauderdale with grace and setting new standards for upcoming shows yet to fulfill such high expectations in the audience.

Broadway World reviews Second National Tour of Wicked in Costa Mesa

The Broadway World team has once again review the smashing-hit musical Wicked.

“Understandably, this musical is such a huge hit that the current 2nd National Tour boasts, not one, but two simultaneously traveling companies performing the exact same show with, of course, two different casts. For the Segerstrom Center’s tour stop, Orange County is blessed with a really talented group, headed by Brummel’s snarky take on Elphaba and Daradich’s winningly-hilarious over-the-top version of Galinda.”

“Overall, WICKED’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center is just as awe-inspiring as its initial debut in Orange County several years ago. If they keep this up, this show’s touring future will, no doubt, be… unlimited… unlimited… (Sorry, couldn’t resist).”

Read Full Review here

Review: Mamma Mia on Broadway

Last Wednesday night I saw the smashing-hit musical Mamma Mia, currently playing at the Winter Garden theatre on Broadway. This was my second time visiting the house, and you can read my previous review here for more insights. However, this time it was different. If during my first visit to the Greek island I had liked the show, I now ended up loving it. Maybe it was the cast, the music or simply the night but everything was really good during the performance.

It is now very clear that old ABBA tunes are still kicking in after all these years and that people keep enjoying them thanks to this musical. The audience left the theatre with nothing but big smiles after dancing and singing along throughout two hours of excellent entertainment.

As for the cast, everyone was in its official role except for Tanya, who was played by Stacia Fernandez (SB), instead of by Judy McLane, and Father Alexander, who was interpreted by Timothy Booth. Over the last couple of months Mamma Mia has undergone some changes in its cast, but surprisingly it really doesn’t show. All actors were very strong in their parts, including the entire ensemble that conveyed lots of energy throughout the entire show. As I said, everything was pretty much perfect.

I’ve been following Lisa Brescia since she played Elphaba in Wicked a couple of years ago. She was perfect for that role but I now realize that she was, in fact, born to play Donna Sheridan. Lisa was absolutely fantastic. She understood the character to perfection and Donna was, for the first time, a true character brought to life. Her voice is shaped beyond perfection, her diction was impeccable and her interpretation of all the pieces was outstanding, leaving no doubt that she deserves, more than anyone, the part. But above all, Brescia was successful at conveying the fun of playing Donna and it showed how she enjoys every second of the show. Ms. Brescia has brought Donna to such a new dimension that I dare say no other performer can truly match-add a deep and renewed spirit to Mamma Mia. On the other hand, her daughter, Sophie Sheridan, was certainly no way behind. Young and talented Liana Hunt, showed why she was taken from the National Tour to the main stage on Broadway to reproduce the part. Her performance was full of detail, and she played Sophie in a brilliant way. Her vocals were strong and she was stupendous in all parts. One can clearly tell that Ms. Hunt has a tremendous future and I can’t wait to see a lot more from her as she follows her path towards becoming a true Broadway star. Brescia and Hunt show a real chemistry, much like a real mom-daughter relationship, becoming a dynamite duet. However, I would have loved to hear a little bit more of Liana during the show. The sound system seemed to me a little bit low at some parts and I couldn’t hear and clearly understand her lines and beautiful voice. Still, she truly represents all the sweetness and appeal of Sophie, creating a solid and shining performance.

The Dynamos are obviously supporting roles in the story, but let me tell you that they didn’t feel like that at all. Both performers were exceptional and did a terrific job. On the one hand, Stacia Fernandez didn’t seem like the understudy. I’ve previously seen Ms. McLane in that role and despite the fact that they play the role differently, I personally think that the chemistry between Stacia and Gina Ferrall (Rosie) was beyond splendid. Their comic timing was wonderful and the audience rewarded them with a standing ovation at the end.

As per the Fathers, they are all three simply appropriate for the part but none of them really brought any sparkle onto the stage. I would have expected a lot more from them, bearing their career in mind. Corey Greenan, Sky, did a solid work and he proved why together with Liana they come across as a very charming couple on stage – kudos to him.

Last but not least, the rest of the ensemble. They acted down to the last detail  and they truly showed the amount of hours of preparation, helping Mamma Mia become one of the top shows currently playing on Broadway.  They all did a timely and colorful choreography with solid vocals and a proper back-up singing too.

On a whole, I would say Mamma Mia is an enjoyable show. It’s perfect for those seeking a musical where the entire family can have fun and be a part of it. Mamma Mia has proven to me once again why it is the awarded show it once was. Of course, much success also depends on the cast and let me assure you that both Ms. Brescia and Ms. Hunt will bring this show once more to the must-see musicals on Broadway.