Third Time Is Still A Charm For WICKED At The Fox Theatre

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Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba the Wicked Witch, December 10, 2015 at the Fox Theatre, St. Louis.

When I see a musical theatre production for the first time, you pay close attention to the story and the song lyrics. I let the music envelope me and let the set and costumes bring me on stage and pull me into their world. The second time I start noticing little things, like how lines are delivered differently from the actor who played the roll the last time the tour rolled through town. The third time, I keep my peripheral senses open to hear the gasps of delight of the audience around me, enjoying the same reactions I had the first time. That's why my third time seeing WICKED at the Fabulous Fox Theatre was still just as charming and fun as the first time I saw it.

At my performance in Thursday, December 10, 2015, the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, was played by Mary Kate Morrissey, the stand in for tour regular Emily Koch. Miss Koch herself was the understudy for Elphaba on Broadway, so I'm sure she's great in the role, but Mary Kate might be my favorite of the four Elphabas I've seen myself. In case you’re wondering about my math, at my second WICKED show the stand in replaced the lead late in the first act and all of the second. Mary Kate just completely owned the part this night. She sang beautifully, hitting that trademark power note at the end of “Gravity” like it owed her money.  She had the prefect mix of snark and vulnerability, and when she struck a magic casting pose I expected a gleaming bolt of eldritch power to blast forth Elphaba’s emerald-hued fingers. This isn't much of a spoiler, but there's a scene where Elphaba does that classic Margaraet Hamilton cackle and Mary Kate gave me chills when she did it. At intermission and after the show I heard more than a few fans disguising her performance. The first-timers were all wondering what Emily Koch must be like if Miss Morrissey is the understudy and WICKED veterans were singing her praises as well.

The rest of the cast was in mostly fine form as well. Amanda Jane Cooper was delightful as Glinda the Good Witch of the North. She plays the ditzy ingénue to perfection and brings a powerful operatic voice to many of her songs. Mary Kate and Amanda Jane have good chemistry with each other, and their characters’ budding friendship felt very genuine. Wendy Worthington was both matronly and menacing as Madame Morrible, the magic instructor at Elphaba And Glinda’s school. Stuart Zagnit was worth paying attention to as the man behind the curtain, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He was most effective as the suave snake oil salesman if slightly less convincing as the conniving villain with vague reasons for his sinister actions. Jake Boyd felt a little wooden as Fiyero when the boy toy first hits the stage but he grew on me as the story reached the more dramatic second act.

My only real complaint, and this was a something the folks sitting around me agreed was an issue, was that the traveling orchestra, conducted by P. Jason Yarcho, seemed to drown out the singers too often. In my case, seated only a few rows back from the pit, I might have been hearing the music coming from both the speakers and the instruments themselves. Perhaps this wasn’t as noticeable further from the pit? I do think that the sound mixing that evening favored the orchestra though, as the speakers definitely blared over the lower vocal registers. Hopefully they'll find the right balance as the production makes its lengthy run in St. Louis.

WICKED runs through January 3, 2016 at the Fox Theatre. It set attendance records at the Fox the last time it came to town, so I hope you bought your tickets early if you're planning on attending. Visit www.FabulousFox.com to find out if there are any seats left and what wonderful shows follow WICKED in the New Year. I wish all my readers and the casts and crews of the shows I've covered this year a marvelous holiday season and splendid 2016. Cheers!

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0