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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
HomeBlogNew and NotableTheatre Review: Wicked at the Kennedy Center Washington DC

Theatre Review: Wicked at the Kennedy Center Washington DC

wickedby Mary McCarthy, Editor

Having seen Wicked on Broadway in New York City about five years ago, I knew the dangers of seeing it in Washington DC and the inevitable (and potentially unfair) comparisons to the original production. So I’m doing my best to be objective in reviewing the opening of the Kennedy Center’s new production (running through August 21 in the Opera House).

The set is fantastic- the intricate mechanical workings, massive metallic time dragon and emerald-glowing Oz are all artistically impressive. The costuming is gorgeous. The orchestra and choreography are truly extra actors on the well-dressed stage.

The acting is good, except when it’s exceptional. Solid performances are turned in by  Mark Jacoby as the Wizard and Randy Danson as Madame Morrible. Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda is a crowd-pleaser in her strong (if a bit squealy) performance.  What she lacks in subtlety and vocal dominance she makes up for with humor and passion; it can’t be easy to follow Kristen Chenoweth in the role.

Even more challenging must be starring beside Dee Roscioli as Elphaba, who is flawless. I listened to the original Broadway musical on the way home, and I truly believe that Roscioli is easily equally as talented as original Elphaba Idina Menzel. (What was that thing I said about not comparing this production to Broadway? Oooops…) Unfortunately, Roscioli is forced to tone herself down when singing opposite Cooper and especially in a duet with Colin Hanlon as Fiyero, who’s full of charm but lacking in vocal punch.

This production is worth seeing simply because of the green witch.  I knew in a few notes of “The Wizard and I” that there was a reason why she’s played the part (and played it on Broadway; no need to compare) more times than any other actress.  It’s because she’s the best. There’s nothing like the feeling of sitting at a live performance and having chills run through your entire body (followed by goosebumps) because of the power of an actor/singer on stage.

I was only disappointed once in this performance, and once again I blame Broadway. In New York, the most memorable scene is the musical number “Defy Gravity.” When the Wicked Witch flies for the first time, a piece of the stage actually moves up as her dress grows to cover it. The actress ends up downstage center in order to belt out the final notes of the song. In this DC production, understanding that there are restraints due to a temporary versus a permanent set, fog and creative lighting are used to disguise the fact that there is no such dramatic moving set piece and accompanying amazing dress. Elphaba ends up too far upstage to allow her voice to fill the opera house. There had to be a better technical way to make what’s supposed to be the most powerful moment in the musical, well… more powerful.

The best news for area families is that for the most part, Broadway has been brought to DC in the green hands of a very capable not-so-wicked witch. My advice to you (since I failed) is to forget New York and enjoy this performance on its own merits. If you choose one activity to let your kids experience in DC this summer, this is the one.

Chesapeake Family Editor Mary McCarthy is an admitted passionate lifelong theatre geek who played the Wicked Witch of the West in her high school production of The Wiz, in which she forgot the words to her song on opening night.

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