Performances in national “Wicked” tour fall flat

Christine Dwyer, playing Elphaba the green witch, furiously chanted magical spells on a dark, bare stage.

“I am wicked through and through,” she said, and her new philosophy became clear.

The national tour of the Broadway smash hit “Wicked” is now playing at downtown Syracuse’s Landmark Theatre through Dec. 9. Despite considerable standouts and heavily lauded production value, the company and production did all but defy gravity.

In the scene’s final moments, Elphaba defiantly declared, “No good deed will I do again!” The power Dwyer exhibits was palpable, but the empty stage served as a metaphor for her company among the ranks of noteworthy performances.

The Tony and Grammy award-winning musical — with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman and direction by Joe Mantello — tells the untold story of the two witches of Oz: Elphaba and Glinda. Or as they are more famously known, the wicked and the good.

Once friends and school roommates, the two go their separate ways to become the witches we know them to be. But “Wicked” gives insight into their relationship. They helped each other, pined for the same boy and had dreams about what awaited them in the Emerald City.

All the creative components in this production of “Wicked” are the same as those that entertain crowds at the Gershwin Theatre inNew York City. The Broadway show has the highest gross in the past eight years and has earned more than $2.8 billion worldwide from domestic and international runs.

It goes without saying that there is a “Wicked” formula that works. Mantello’s direction is dramatic and grand without turning the prequel into a joke. If critical acclaim is not enough to indicate success, it’s the crowds’ reactions to the scene that contains their favorite songs.

In fact, members of a typical “Wicked” audience can most likely be seen mouthing the words along with the actors, if not singing them full out.

This is due to Schwartz’s wonderfully campy yet brilliantly written score. By now he can be considered no less than a genius for creating music that has captured an entire generation of musical theater.

But an audience member’s rendition would have been welcomed in this circumstance, as Jeanna de Waal displayed the overall vocal technique and precision of an amateur. Her Glinda did not live up to the bright, clean delivery that Kristin Chenoweth gave in the original Broadway soundtrack dominating theater geeks’ iPods.

At the other end of the spectrum, the audience finds Dwyer’s sheer triumph as the conflicted yet powerful Elphaba. In a cast of relative unknowns, she earned the only applause upon her first appearance. Though the role naturally commands such a response, Dwyer used every second as an opportunity to transform into the iconic role.

The pinnacle of this trait comes at the climax of the show’s absolute showstopper, “Defying Gravity.” She showed true mastery of her character and belted out notes and musical runs that rival her role’s predecessors.

Her success is not due to her performance’s similarity to Idina Menzel’s original undertaking, not to mention their uncanny resemblance. Rather, it can be chalked up to embodying comparable conviction in her scenes and precision in vocal ability. Unlike her counterpart, Dwyer’s performance can hardly be considered green.

The ensemble cast, a supporting character in and of itself, falls flat in crucial scenes that call for spectacular performances while shining brightly in others. The opening number, “No One Mourns The Wicked,” which serves as the audience’s introduction to the show’s overall tone, proved to be disappointing in what can only be compared to a pre-professional rendition.

Despite moments when the production flat lined, the mere prospect of seeing a performance of “Wicked” induced childish, giddy excitement.

Just replace those that don’t measure up with the soundtrack’s performances.


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