Total Rating: 
October 7, 2003
October 30, 2003
open run (as of September 2014)
New York
New York
Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B Platt & David Stone.
Theater Type: 
Gershwin Theater
Theater Address: 
221 West 51st Street
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 45 min
Score: Stephen Schwartz; Book: Winnie Holzman, adapting Gregory Maguire novel
Joe Mantello

 Since he burst precociously on the Broadway scene in 1972, Stephen Schwartz has been writing about sorcery or magic, and about family relationships. (See "May the Schwartz Be With Us" in the Periodica section.) Now, with Wicked, it all comes together in a consummate work that is spectacular, funny, has something serious to say and contains excellent music. Although it Wicked characters from Frank Baum's "Oz" books and has in-joke references to The Wizard of Oz, it is not a retelling of that story. Unlike other recent hits like The Lion King, The Producers or Hairspray, this show departs radically from the story that we know. Wicked shows us an earlier time when the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch were schoolgirl rivals and the politics of the Emerald City were in turmoil.

is primarily an adventure tale with a whodunnit mystery element, but the musical also draws parallels to America's role in the world today and the government's attitude towards dissent. When the evil witch of the East is crushed to death by Dorothy's house, one character says: "Think of it as regime change." And the Wizard tells us his theory of governing: "The best way to bring folks together is to give them a really good enemy."

Unexpected plot twists continue to the very end, and I won't spoil your fun by disclosing who is turned into the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow, and why, and how, nor some even-more-surprising switches. There are great theatrical moments for Joel Grey as the fatherly Wizard, Kristin Chenoweth as the perky blonde Glinda and Idina Menzel as the sulty dark Elphaba, who is forced to become the wicked "enemy." What a contrast in personality and appearance there is between the two girls! Chenoweth and Menzel make a terrific team. Michelle Federer is a pleasant surprise as a crippled sister we never knew about, and Norbert Leo Butz looks and sounds great as a leading man who turns out to have more ambivalence and complexity than it first appears. Schwartz provides a substantial score, ranging from the catchiness of "Popular" to ballads like "I'm Not That Girl," the rousing Act 1 curtain, "Defying Gravity," and a touching duet for the two leading ladies, "For Good." Grey's song-and-dance, "Wonderful," is another visual and musical high spot. At two hours and 40 minutes, long by today's standards, Wicked flies by, so to speak. I wish it could have continued even longer.

Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel (Elphaba), Joel Grey (Wizard), Carole Shelley, Norbert Leo Butz, Christopher Fitzgerald, Michelle Federer, William Youmans, Ioana Alfonso, Ben Cameron, Cristy Candler, Melissa Bell Chait, Marcus Choi, Kristoffer Cusick, Kathy Deitch, Melissa Fahn, Rhett G. George, Kristen Lee Gorski, Manuel Herrera, Kisha Howard, Jan Neuberger, LJ Jellison, Sean McCourt, Corinne McFadden, Mark Myars, Walter Winston ONeil, Andrew Palermo, Andy Pellick, Michael Seelbach, Lorna Ventura, Derrick Williams
Musical staging: Wayne Cilento; Orchestrations: William David Brohn; Music director: Stephen Oremus. Sets: Eugene Lee; Costumes: Susan Hilferty; Lighting: Kenneth Posner; Sound: Tony Meola; Projections: Elaine J. McCarthy; Wigs/hair: Tom Watson; Production supervisor: Steven Beckler; Dance arrangements: James Lynn Abbott; Special effects: Chic Silber; Flying sequences: Paul Rubin/ZFX Inc.
2004 Tonys: Leading Actress (Menzel), Set, Costumes.
Other Critics: 
TOTALTHEATER David Lefkowitz !
Steve Cohen
Date Reviewed: 
October 2003