'Wicked' Makes Its Triumphant Return to Segerstrom

The massive hit for the past decade has left the Emerald City and returned to Costa Mesa! Oz is back on stage at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in one of the biggest, most magical and engaging musical productions you’ll ever see. The big green Broadway superstar just hit the milestone of being named the 10th longest-running Broadway show and is now here till March 6th. There is a reason why it’s been in Southern California so frequently. WICKED is a must-see and constantly building thousands of repeat audience goers. This one tops the cake of celebrated musicals of this generation!

Playing to already countless sold-out crowds at The Pantages and multiple visits to Segerstrom Center for the Arts, WICKED features some of the best stage production and production value out there. If you haven’t already made it out to a showing in the past few years, why have you waited so long?! It is time to get out there and see what all the fuss is about.

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Once lead by roles made famous by Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth, WICKED features some of the already most iconic songs in the business with such greats as “Defying Gravity”, “Popular”, and “The Wizard and I”. This is a story long before Dorothy ever arrives over the rainbow, in fact, you begin already in Oz with a story of a another girl, Elphaba. This young innocent, born green, girl has grown up teased and misunderstood for years. It’s her extraordinary wizardry talent that brings her notice to others including to a bubbly blonde exact opposite of herself. The two rival and soon become an unlikely friendship that leads to a trip to see The Wizard where not everything may be as it seems.

For those that may be a little more unfamiliar with the plot, WICKED is a twist on the cherished 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. It’s a tale seen through the perspective of “The Wicked Witch” that may throw you for a twist(er). It’s clever and sneaky in its ability to incorporate memorable themes and characters from the film we all know, but it throws everything on its side and shakes it. Elphaba, your mighty wicked witch of the west, is klutzy, dorky, and socially awkward while Galinda the Good may not be as kind as we once thought. It’s quite enjoyable to see how the writer of the novel, Gregory Maguire, has twisted the story showing the tale of the two witches beginnings all the way to that fateful night in the castle. Be prepared for significant changes to your perception of the characters or else you find yourself frustrated that it doesn’t align with the film.

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While the story is an unique telling of a classic, it’s a show where the sets shine, literally and figuratively, and the music triumphs. Unfortunately, for my performance the vocal talent missed the mark entirely. Elphaba played by Emily Koch takes a bit go getting used to. Her deep and un-heroine like voice may be absolutely fitting for this role, her singing however never seemed to reach a note. As many may know, WICKED contains incredibly powerful ginormous ballads that require a huge range and enormous belting. It’s a show that doesn’t allow for mistakes, there’s no masking it. Sadly for s
everal of the performers, the mistakes were all too noticeable.

The show finished still entertaining and whimsical including astounding applause, but those familiar with the music may be left feeling a little cold. Leading man Fiyero, Chad Jennings, played the role superbly but also felt blah during his featured songs. His character has beautiful solos and multiple duets yet I felt tiresome of him halfway through each song. Our understudy for Nessarose was satisfactory, but also quite uninspiring.

Let me preface the previous statements as to say I understand how difficult this music is, and what big slippers they had to fill, but it’s worth mentioning the singing wont come close what many are familiar with. The performers all still played their characters well. In fact, quite perfectly sans their vocal attributions. However, Galinda, played by the wondrous Amanda Jane Cooper, was the star!

Cooper shined with comedic timing that could challenge some of the greatest and probably some of the best Galinda’s of the past. Her charisma and well-timed bits, range, acting, and tremendous singing all provided for a joyous experience. Now let me take her off the pedestal for a moment and state that the entire show still contained some of the best characterization work and entertaining scenes of any musical.

WICKED is one of the largest feeling shows out there. It’s able to capture the nostalgia while bringing something fresh to the theater. The show is still vibrant and bold and downright exciting. It will bring the child out in everyone yet memorize children of all ages in the same process. It’s one of those shows where you can picture that adorable little kid on the edge of their seat pointing down at the stage turning to mommy to say “Look!” with those giant wide-open glistening eyes as they stare back down in astonishment. That child, will be you.

WICKED is now playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa until March 6th.

Tickets start at $49 and are available at scfta.org.

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Joel Covey
Joel has been writing for SoCalThrills for the past decade covering entertainment, events, and theater since joining the site. He is a CSUF alum, studying within the Communication and Radio / TV / Film colleges.