Theater Review: Wicked—Broadway smash comes to Chicago

Every aspect of the New York production is recreated on the stage of the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago. The breathtaking set, stunning lighting, and fabulous costumes make Wicked a visual joy from beginning to end. Stephanie J. Block is Elphaba; like Kermit, “it’s hard being green.” As Glinda, Kendra Kassebaum plays the ditsy blonde to perfection. Her rendition of “Popular,” filled with malapropisms, details every step on the road to popularity.

Enrolling in Madame Morrible’s school of wizardry, they inadvertently become roommates, and a friendship develops. Carol Kane is the Madame, a role similar to the witch in The Princess Bride. Billie Burke played Glinda in the original Wizard of Oz. Kane’s voice and body language is much like hers. Elphaba’s favorite teacher, Dr. Dillamond (Timothy Britten Parker) is an erudite goat. When his ability to speak results in dismissal, protecting the animals becomes Elphaba’s mission.

Many of the details of the original Wizard… are incorporated: the flying monkeys, the tin man, an invisible Dorothy, and the Wizard, played by David Garrison. Playing to a sold-out house, the opening last week brought cheers from the audience. Wicked has become a favorite of teenagers, and they arrived by the busload. Many performances are already unavailable. The good news: The touring company leaves after the June 12 show, taking their costumes but leaving the scenery to be used by an all-new Chicago cast.

Rondi Reed of Steppenwolf will play Madame Morrible, and Gene Weygandt becomes the Wizard. Some New Yorkers will share the stage, but as noted in Jonathan’ Araranel’s article in the April 1, 2005 issue of Performink, it is a “payday for Chicago actors.”

Joe Mantello directed the New York production, adding to his list of Tony and Tony-nominated shows. Last year, he received a Tony for his direction of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. Kassebaum appeared in that production. His many successes include Take Me Out (Tony Award), The Vagina Monologues, Love, Valour, Compassion (both the stage show and the movie), and a myriad of others. As an actor, he played Louis in Angels in America, receiving a Tony nomination. Our pride in his accomplishments increases with every new success. His list of awards includes Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Helen Hayes, Clarence Derwent, Obie, and Joe A Callaway.

Ticket information

Wicked playing April 29-June 12. Tickets range in price from $25 to $85 and are available at all Broadway in Chicago box offices (22 W. Monroe, 24 W. Randolph, and 151 W. Randolph) or through Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line at (312) 902-1400 and at all Ticketmaster ticket centers, online at

The Chicago company of Wicked will play the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, 24 W. Randolph St., beginning June 24. The ticket information is the same as for the current production. Groups of 20 or more can receive a discount by calling (312) 977-1710.

“So much happened before Dorothy dropped in…”

From the May 11-17, 2005, issue

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