Luke Matthews

REVIEW: It doesn’t get any better than Wicked


(Disclaimer – I was provided complimentary tickets to Wicked by Des Moines Performing Arts)

Third time is the charm.

The first time is pretty magical. It brings some to tears. The second time is like a second helping of your favorite meal. You don’t think you’ll enjoy it as much as the first time, but you do and more. But the third time, the third time just feels like wonderful overindulgence.

Wicked is back for the third time at the Civic Center of Des Moines for a two-week run. It’s the shortest run of the three stops, so your time is limited to see this incredible show. What can I say about a show that’s won everything you can win when it comes to Broadway shows? If you’re unfamiliar with the show, I can catch you up.

Wicked┬áis not exactly a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” but it gives you a look into how the characters met before Dorothy landed in Oz. Turns out, Glinda (formerly know as Galinda… “with a GAH”) and Elphaba (The Wicked Witch of the West) were schoolmates when they were young. It was a chance meeting with the Wizard of Oz that shaped how Elphaba became the witch we all know from the famous movie. In the classic movie, the Wicked Witch appears evil from the beginning, out to retain the ruby red slippers stolen from her dead sister. In Wicked, we see that the Wicked Witch was once quite good and was actually fighting for a just cause against Oz’s ultimate manipulator.

The characters we thought we knew from the original story are turned on their heads. Glinda was actually quite selfish and self-absorbed. The “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is shown to be anything but wonderful. We also get to see where the lives of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion were ultimately changed forever prior to meeting Dorothy.

Wicked features two of the most show stopping musical numbers in Broadway theater. There’s the touching “For Good” sung by Elphaba and Glinda near the show’s conclusion and theres the soaring “Defying Gravity” which closes out the first act. These songs will live on among the best songs to ever be performed on a Broadway stage with the likes of songs from Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and Les Miserables. That said, it was surprising to me that after three viewings of Wicked, I didn’t own the soundtrack. I made certain that before I left the Civic Center last night, I had my own copy.

As always, the cast of Wicked is stellar. Jennifer DiNoia’s performance as Elphaba really is the star of the show. “Elphie” gets custody of or shares the show’s biggest numbers. Often sharing those songs is the gorgeous Hayley Podschun, playing Glinda. She portrays a perfect balance of noble character, mixed with a bit of Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde.”

The supporting cast really buoys the show. The stunningly beautiful Emily Behny wonderfully portrays Elphaba’s sister Nessarose, later known as the Wicked Witch of the East. David Nathan Perlow is a great returning cast member from the last tour of Wicked as the love interest between the Witches, Fiyero. There’s also fantastic performances by Kathy Fitzgerald as Madame Morrible, John Hillner as Dr. Dillamond, and of course, Walker Jones as the Wizard.

Three times wasn’t enough. I have no idea how many times will be “enough” to see Wicked. It’s a true treasure of American theater and is not to be missed, ever. See it for the next two weeks at the Civic Center.

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