The wondrous Smith Center for the Arts in Las Vegas‘ 2,000-seat Reynolds Hall is occupied with Wicked, the show that, from all the anecdotal evidence available, is the most anticipated Broadway musical of the Center’s inaugural season.
Since Las Vegas is an almost-unbelievable city — like no other any place on earth — and Oz is completely fictional, the two are a natural fit.
The by-now familiar story of Glinda, the good witch, and Elphaba, the poor green creature destined to be known forever as the Wicked Witch of the West. is, simply, a look at another facet of Oz — the time before Dorothy and Toto arrive from Kansas.
This production of the Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book) musical based on the Gregory Maguire novel of the same name is gorgeous to look at and boasts a cast of first-rate professionals. Eugene Lee’s sumptuous sets and Susan Hilferty’s costumes have come to Las Vegas with a road company of outstanding talent.
Nicole Parker’s Elphaba is terrific — misunderstood, misguided and a thoroughly lovely person. Patti Murin is Glinda the Good Witch much as Kristin Chenoweth was on Broadway — petite, perky and “pop-u-lar.”
This is a cast of all pros. In addition to the central witches, the Wizard, in all his faults, is played by Tom McGowan, who audiences surely know from lots of TV, including his run as Kenny, the station manager, on Frasier. Doctor Dillamond, the goat, is Clifton Davis, probably best recognized from his roles in Mama’s Family and Amen on TV. Emmy Winner Kim Zimmer (Guiding Light) is Madame Morrible. Outstanding support is also given by Justin Brill, Cliffton Hall and Demaree Hill, along with the entire ensemble.
Director Joe Mantello (whom remains unforgettable as an actor in the original Angels In America), and choreographer Wayne Cilento give the actors real humanity. More than a tale of two witches and a wizard, this is a story, ultimately, of love and friendship triumphant.
Wicked has proven to be a critic-proof mega-hit Although it was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, it won only for sets, costumes and best performance by a leading actress in a musical (Idina Menzel for playing Elphaba). But audiences love this and it has been a smash hit sellout on Broadway since May 28. 2003. There have been road companies for eight years.
Now, I wish to be clear. This is an outstanding production. Every element is perfect. If you like The Wizard of Oz, you’ll like this production. And if, like me, you don’t particularly care for the original source material, you’ll enjoy this purely for the enjoyment of first-class talent and production values. They are wonderful.
Wicked is at The Smith Center through October 7. It shows Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $42-$180. You can get them online http://ev10.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?linkID=tsc&timeDateFrom=2012-9-9-00.00.00&timeDateTo=2013-8-31-23.59.59 or by phone, 702-749-2000.