Review: Wicked (Mirvish)

Photo of Ginna Claire Mason & Mary Kate Morrissey in WickedThe hit Broadway musical Wicked returns to Toronto

Since it opened on Broadway in 2003, the musical Wicked has become an international phenomenon. It has played over 100 cities in 15 countries, raking in over $4.5 billion in global ticket sales and winning over millions of fans in the process. A touring production of the show has just touched down at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre for a fifth engagement and—as with any long-running show—the question is; does Wicked retain its magic or does it show its age?

There are many things to love about Wicked: the clever story (based on the novel by Gregory Maguire) takes the classic film The Wizard of Oz and turns it on its head; composer Stephen Schwartz’ score featuring several now iconic songs including “Defying Gravity” and “For Good,” as well as the eye-popping production design featuring Eugene Lee’s steampunk sets which bring the magical world of Oz vividly to life on stage.

Then there are the performances. Wicked depends on the strengths of its two leads to carry the show. Luckily, in this touring production the roles are in the capable hands of Mary Kate Morrissey, whose powerhouse voice is perfectly matched to her role of Elphaba, the “Wicked Witch of the West,” and Ginna Claire Mason, who often steals the show with her comedic delivery as Glinda the Good.

Part of the show’s success is the fans who come back to see it again and again. For me, Wicked is like a favourite movie that I like to re-watch periodically. I’ve seen multiple productions in New York, London, Tokyo, and on tour and I think it’s one of those shows that really stands up to repeat viewings. I’m happy to report that, even after years on the road, this touring production is still in great shape, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and it’s still the Wicked we know and love.

But beyond Wicked‘s flashy sets and tightly choreographed production numbers, the aspect of the show that really resonated with me on this viewing was its political subtext. 

Originally a scathing critique of the tactics and rhetoric used by President George W. Bush in his “War on Terror”—including a now dated and not-at-all subtle reference to “regime change”—the show’s political message becomes even more timely and relevant in the Trump era. Some minor plot spoilers follow.

In Wicked‘s version of Oz, the Wizard (Jason Graae) is a dictator who rode to power on a populist wave and keeps it by vilifying Oz’s community of speaking animals… Sound familiar?

Elphaba, smart and talented but ostracized due to her green skin, emerges as a sort of freedom fighter for the animals and is in turn deemed a terrorist by the Wizard.

The Wizard’s Press Secretary Madame Morrible (Jody Gelb) coins the phrase “wicked witch” and leads a deliberate campaign of lies and disinformation against Elphaba. She’s basically the Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Oz.

There’s also a particularly chilling and prescient moment where an Ozian official extols the virtues of keeping baby animals in cages so they’ll never learn to speak… 

While the show may no longer be the escapist fantasy it once was, it has a newfound relevance, and because of the timeliness and importance of its message, there’s never been a better time to watch (or re-watch) Wicked. 

Details:

  • Wicked is playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria Street) through August 5, 2018
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 1:30 p.m., Added performances on Thu. June 21 at 1:30PM and Thu. June 28 at 1:30PM
  • Tickets $49.00 to $139.00
  • Tickets are available by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, in-person at the Ed Mirvish Theatre box office or online at Mirvish.com
  • A day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats for $25 each, cash only, will be held two and a half hours prior to each performance. See the website for more details.

Photo of Ginna Claire Mason & Mary Kate Morrissey by Joan Marcus

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