The Fox Theatre’s latest performance, the three-time Tony award-winning musical Wicked, ran from Feb. 18 to Mar. 8 at the Atlanta venue. Wicked is the product of composer Stephen Schwartz and writer Winnie Holzman, who adapted the 2005 novel by Gregory Macguire, of the same name to musical form. Directed by Joe Mantello, this performance had a large legacy to live up to.
Wicked tells the story of the rise and fall of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Outcast Elphaba, later to become the Wicked Witch, enters college where she is forced to room with the perky and self-centered Glinda. Enemies at first, they later set off to the Emerald City to meet the Wonderful Wizard. Once there, Elphaba’s mysterious powers are taken for granted by the Wizard, and she is wrongfully blamed by all for a magical mishap. She becomes the scapegoat while Glinda rises to power as the symbol of good ness and hope for all “Ozians.” As Elphaba continues to lose control, she must sacrifice herself for the good of Oz and her friendship with Glinda.
The actors brought a stimulating energy to the stage, mainly the performances of Alyssa Fox and Carrie St. Louis. Fox played the outcast Elphaba. She slouched around the set and glared at all the other actors, showing the character’s disdain for her fellow classmates and townspeople. In contrast to Fox’s Elphaba, Carrie St. Louis flirted and flounced her way around the stage as Glinda, the stereotypical blonde, who demanded the audience’s attention whenever she was on stage.
The stage, done by set designer Eugene Lee, was surrounded by a clock marked with thirteen hours on it, creating a sense of urgency for the plot. On both stage left and right, cogwheels lined the edge during the beginning, giving the play a raw sense that the characters were a work in progress.
To counteract that sense, the Emerald City was nothing but bright lights, glitter and green covering every inch of the stage and background. It was almost an overwhelming brightness when the characters reached the city, causing a dazzling yet harsh effect for the audience.
Whether people have seen the show before or not, the music is what most people know from Wicked. The orchestration, done by William David Braughn, stayed true to the original soundtrack. It started with an eerie opening, when all was still dark, and gained confidence and intensity throughout, mirroring the growth of Elphaba.
Most people think of Wicked with its original stars, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda and Idina Menzel as Elphaba. With reputable names like these, St. Louis and Fox had much to live up to, especially in the vocal department. They did not disappoint. While both were strong vocalists during their duets, such as “For Good,” all eyes were locked on Fox during her solo part of the seminal “Defying Gravity.” She belted her notes across the auditorium, leaving no area untouched by her astounding voice.
Mantello’s production captivated every eye in the audience. He was able to capture the theme of sacrifice while keeping in tune with the play everyone knows and loves.