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.
For ticket information visit http://www.BroadwayInChicago.com