Wicked Paints the Town Green

by Camille Borodey

The Tony Award-Winning Musical, which tells the untold story of the witches of Oz, will be playing at the First Interstate Center in Spokane through March 27th.

This was my second time seeing “Wicked,” and I have a confession to make. The day I saw the show at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle in 2019 was the same day as my cousin’s wedding shower. Earlier that day, I had consumed a lot of champagne, so by the second act of the show, my head wasn’t feeling great. Long story short, I was under the impression that I wasn’t a fan of “Wicked.” After seeing the show a second time, I can confirm that “Wicked” is 10x more enjoyable when one is free of champagne brain, and this new production features beautiful sets and stunning performances.

“Wicked” premiered on Broadway in 2003 and is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. The story is told from the point of view of the infamous Wizard of Oz witches, Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, The Good Witch, and shows the events that took place before Dorothy Gale lands in Oz and after she returns home to Kansas. Since its premiere, the show has been a massive part of musical theatre culture and is praised for its creativity and appeal to a broad audience. In 2021, PBS hosted a “Wicked” concert special, and it was announced that a movie adaptation starring Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande is now underway.

It’s not easy being green for Elphaba; she has always had trouble fitting in and is shunned by her father, who showers all of his affection on Elphaba’s sister Nessarose. Upon arriving at Shiz University, the school’s headmistress recognizes her potential, and Elphaba sees a future where she could one day work with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, The Wizard may not be as wonderful as we’re led to believe.
Elphaba ends up rooming with the blonde and bubbly Glinda (formerly known as GAlinda), a popular girl who is often used to getting what she wants. Against the odds, the girls form an unlikely and complicated friendship that follows them on their diverging paths.

The show’s two leads, Talia Suskauer, starring as Elphaba, and Allison Bailey, starring as Glinda, have spectacular chemistry and do a sensational job at carrying the show. Suskauer is a fantastic vocalist, and along with the emotional aspects of the character, I thought she did an excellent job at showing Elphaba’s funny and sarcastic side. Glinda can be a challenging role because of how overly quirky and often selfish the character is, but Bailey plays her with such heart that you’ll be humming “Popular” all the way home.
Another notable performance in the show is Jordan Litz as Fieryo, who is caught in a love triangle between the two leading ladies. I mostly just wanted to say that this guy can belt: he sings like a Disney prince. As the story’s pretty boy with a heart of gold, Litz avoids making Fieryo dull. However, the story doesn’t feel like it gets too caught up in the love triangle, which is good because it allows the show’s heart to remain with Elphaba and Glinda.

I’ve seen multiple live musicals at different theatres, and production-wise, “Wicked” may be the most impressive. The use of colors, especially green, and all the additional smoke and lights are visually stunning. Also, the multiple set changes and backdrops are super detailed and beautiful. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, “Wicked” is a visual treat.

Overall, “Wicked” is a powerful, tragic, and bittersweet story of the complexities of friendship and offers a different perspective on a classic story. It makes Glinda more than a pretty girl floating in on a bubble and Elphaba more than the cackling evil witch we know from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Get tickets to see Wicked in Spokane at: www.firstinterstatecenter.org/event/wicked.

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