Something Bad Is Happening in Oz


I am a bit miffed and concerned. The Chicago production of Wicked, which I saw on Saturday night has gone from stellar to stale and is in some serious need of an oiling. This is the 11th time I seen the Chicago production throughout its over two year run so far and I have seen every cast change. The last time I saw the show was at the end of Spring and boy have things changed. From being greeted with the rudest ticket taker I have ever encountered, to being offered refreshments in the theatre as if we were at Wrigley Field, to a company that has become so complacent that they feel they can do whatever they want with the characters they inhabit, I was embarrassed to bring my out of town guests to the Ford Oriental Theatre. 


Let’s start from the very beginning. Coming through the front door,  I handed our 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper tickets to the attendant (four sheets of paper in all because we had Broadway In Chicago suite tickets as well). She said in a more than a stern voice that each person had to have their own ticket. I said that I have the tickets for myself and my guest. She refused to let us in until I gave my guest her own ticket, who was attached to my arm being pushed and shoved by the crowd. My guest was 94 years old and has a great deal of trouble walking.  The ticket taker was oblivious. 


Then the fun times continued when we finally found our seats after being sent to the wrong doors by the ushers. When seated, the candy man came by to sell Twizzlers and other assorted paper crunching items to the crowd. I was waiting to hear “popcorn…peanuts….”  Was I really at a theatre? Too bad he didn’t serve martinis because my nerves could have used a few Grey Goose concoctions at that point.


Finally settled, I thought the show would make up for the drama that just occurred. Not a chance. The sound levels have become so uneven, that the orchestra totally overwhelms the singers. There were microphone crackles and pops throughout the night and when the dialogue is underscored, as happens through almost the entire show, you can’t understand a word the actors are saying. 


Which gets me to the next issue. The current cast has allowed each of the characters to become caricatures. Erin Mackey’s Glinda is so over the top that it is manic at times. Dee Roscioli as Elphaba seems to be just walking through the part and her make up is so green, Lou Ferrigno would look light-skinned next to her. The rest of the cast is mediocre, or at least have been allowed to become so. The days of Ana Gasteyer and Kate Reinders are long gone and surely missed. 


The enhanced orchestrations, which I was told have come from the new London production are overdone and at times bizarre. The synthesizer in Defying Gravity makes it sound like a U.F.O. is attacking Oz. I saw the London production and do not recall any such orchestrations.


Wicked is a definite tourist attraction, bringing people of all ages to theatre. A lot of whom have never to been to a legitimate theatre in their lives. It is in that tradition that the theatre production team, onstage and off, rise to the occasion and deliver a superior product. The opposite is happening. The Wicked company is lowering its standards because they think newcomers will love even a mediocre production. Though that may be the case, audiences deserve more. All they need to do is see Wicked in New York,  Los Angeles,  London or on tour and they will see how short changed they got when they saw this current Chicago production.


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3 Comments on “Something Bad Is Happening in Oz”

  1. Allison Says:

    I love how you think you’re some theatre expert. Dee Roscioli and Erin Mackey, as well as the rest of the cast, is incredibly talented. Anyone can see that. Your “review” was extremely overdramatic, and your comments were most definitely uncalled for. Unless you can do a better job than them, which I doubt you can, you have no right to say half the things you did. Whether it’s your biased judgement or just being flat out rude, no one cares for your remarks. Obviously you don’t know what you’re talking about, because both Dee and Erin were just resigned for another six months. Everyone else but you apparently seem to think they’re doing a phenomenal job. Chicago is lucky to have them. Maybe your lack of appreciation is because you get amusement out of bashing incredible performers. If you’re not going to even try to enjoy the show, why go? Trust me, everyone will appreciate not having someone like you at the performance.

    • Brad Says:

      I agree with Allison. Dee and Erin are both amazingly talented performers and both went on to play they’re respective roles on broadway. It seems like you were just looking for things to find wrong because you didn’t want to like them. I saw Dee expecting not to like her and I fell in love with her as a performer. she has never disappointed me with her performances.

      • Hi Brad:

        I wasn’t the author of the “something bad” article, but know of the author, and remember the conversation from that night. From what I remember, here in Chicago, the house employees were very rigid in the way that they were treating the theatre goers that night.

        I think that fact probably set the stage for the author’s review. It seems that the ticket takers were so inflexible with the way that they had to do their jobs, that they made the author’s companion for the night ( an elderly philanthropist woman) walk by herself into the theatre, even though she had a bad leg…and she was told that she needed to be holding her own ticket, even though she wasn’t able to stand unaccompanied. That is a bit insensitive to the situation, you must say.

        Then the PR company supporting the show, had vendors “shouting” during intermission as they were trying to sell drinks in the theatre (water, of course). It kind of made for a circus/ baseball game atmosphere instead of a nice evening out at the theatre.

        Knowing the author of the article, I would venture to say that those experiences clouded the evening more so than the performance. I think objectivity was already being tested when the show began.

        I would think that the performance was very different since the main stage principals were greatly liked and “revered” here in Chicago. That’s not a rationalization that I personally subscribe to. Different is good and exciting at times. I think in hindsight, that if the reviewer had seen the performance on a different night, the review may have been different. Perhaps that night, things weren’t as cohesive as they should have been.

        It reminds me of a saying that always rings true. You can always have a great performance when you’re really “on.” The trick is to have a winning performance even when you’re not on.

        This of course had nothing to do with the incredible talent of the performers that go out there every night to put on a good show. Talent will always win out in the end, and it’s something that you can never write off.

        Thanks for you for your comment.


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