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The touring production of ‘Wicked’ at Playhouse Square is pure magic that enchants

As in all major Broadway productions it is the attention to thousands of minute details that can make or break a show. In the case of the touring production of “Wicked” now on stage in the KeyBank State Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio all of the elements seem to come together for a nearly flawless performance that the entire family will love.

The show begins with Glinda (Allison Bailey) ascending into the city of Oz to officially announce the death of Elphaba (Talia Suskauer), the Wicked Witch of West. When Glinda is asked by a citizen of Oz if Elphaba was her friend the good witch tries to skirt the question but finally admits that yes they were friends thus begins the back story for the treasured children’s classic “The Wizard of Oz.”

It begins with Elphaba’s mother (Marina Lazzaretto) having an affair with a confidence man who plies her with a mysterious green elixir resulting in Elphaba being born with green skin much to the shock of her father (Wayne Schroder) who is the Governor of the Munchkins. When the disgraced mother becomes pregnant again her husband forces her to take an anti-green potion that results in her death and the crippling of her daughter, Nessarose (Amanda Fallon Smith). As punishment for an act she had nothing to do with, Elphaba is forced to be Nessarose’s caretaker.

The two sisters enter Shiz University where they meet Galinda (pronounced Gach-linda) who Elphaba takes an immediate dislike to. Galinda is everything that Elphaba is not...blonde, beautiful with flawless pink skin and a perky bubbly “everything is perfect” attitude. As the father departs he gifts Nessarose with a pair of jeweled shoes. When the headmistress, Madam Morrible (Sharon Sachs) tries to separate the two sisters, Elphaba uses her magic to dramatically pull the wheel chair back to her.

Morrible realizes that Elphaba has sorcery potential and takes her under her wing to teach her the finer points of conjuring with a promise to introduce her to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Cleavant Derricks). In finding Elphaba a roommate Morrible takes advantage of Galinda asking a question to pair the two, much to each other’s disgust.

As this is all unfolding, a Munchkin, Boq falls in love with Galinda who convinces him that Nessarose is a better match as he becomes the girl’s new protector. Arriving on the scene is Winkie bad boy Prince Fiyero Tiggular (Jordan Litz) who has been thrown out of countless universities. No sooner has Fiyero landed he organizes a party at the Ozdust Ballroom. Needless to say, both witches fall deeply in love with the prince setting up a competition between them. Madame Morrible arrives to tell Galinda that she can join Elphaba in her private sorcery class and gives her a wand.

As a joke, Galinda gives Elphaba a witches hat which came as a gift from a misguided aunt. Elphaba wears the hat to the dance only to be laughed at and shamed by the other students. In spite of the slurs she walks to the center of the ballroom and begins to dance, awkwardly. Galinda joins her and soon everyone present joins in and the two girls bond. Later in their room Galinda gives Elphaba a makeover with tips on how to attract men with coyness and giggles.

At history class, animal professor Dr. Dillamond (Clifton Davis) who is a goat and the last remaining animal teacher at Shiz University befriends Elphaba. When Dr. Dillamond is dismissed as a plot to reduce animals to a caged status Elphaba becomes furious as she and Fiyero steal a caged lion cub and flee. Releasing the lion club into the forest and returning to the school Elphaba and Galinda are informed that the Wizard would like to meet them.

Upon meeting the Wizard Elphaba realizes that all of Oz has been had. The Wizard’s new press secretary, Madame Morrible presents Elphaba an ancient book of spells called the Grimmerie which only Elphaba can read. She proves her power by giving the Wizard’s monkey servant wings which at the same times gives wings to all of the monkeys of Oz. Elphaba deduces that the Wizard is the power behind the suppression of the animals and escapes by putting a spell on an ordinary broom and flying away in very dramatic fashion. Madame Morrible announces that Elphaba is wicked and now a wanted person.

While the show veers into rather grim territory of feminism, acceptance, personal freedom, inclusion, prejudice and the fight against fascism it has many counterpoints of lightness to balance it out. Sprinkled in the dialogue are such gems as “swankified”, “thrillified” and “gratitution”.

The production features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz with book by Winnie Holzman and is based on the novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maquire. The show is Directed by Joe Mantello. Orchestration is by William David Brohn with Stephen Oremus as Music Supervisor and Musical Staging by Wayne Cilento.

The touring show stars Allison Bailey as Glinda, Wayne Schroder as the Witch’s Father, Marina Lazzaretto as the Witch’s Mother, Megan Loomis as the Midwife, Talia Suskauer as Elphaba, Amanda Fallon Smith as Nessarose, D. J. Plunkett as Boq, Sharon Sachs as Madam Morrible, Clifton Davis as Doctor Dillamond, Jordon Litz as Fiyero, Wayne Schroder as Ozian Official, Cleavant Derricks as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with various Monkeys, Students, Citizens of the Emerald City, Palace Guards and Denizens of the Emerald City played by Nick Burrage, Jordon Casanova, Matt Densky, Marie Eife, Ryan Patrick Farrell, Sara Gonzales, Marina Lazzaretto, Megan Loomis, Ryan Mac, Hayden Milanes, Jennafer Newberry, Alicia Newcom, Jackie Raye, Rebecca Gans Reavis, Andy Richardson and Justin Wirick.

The absolutely superb orchestra is made up of Evan Rider (Conductor), Derek Shorter (Associate Conductor/Keyboard II), Evan Zavada (Keyboard I), Dani Lee Hutch (Keyboard III), Nick Ujhazy (Guitars), Tim Mulligan (Drums), Maitai Vardi (Reeds, Bb Clarinet/Eb Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Soprano Saxophone), Kyra Kester (Flutes/Alto Flute/piccolo/Penny Whistle), Martin Neubert (Oboe/English Horn), Scott Garlock (Trombones: Tenor Trombone/Bass Trombone), Timothy Powell (Bass: 5 String Electric Bass/6 String Electric Bass/Upright Acoustic Bass), Rob Kovacs (Keyboard IV), William Shaffer (Keyboard II sub for specific performances), Ken Wadenpfhul (French Horn), Joseph Miller (Trumpet/Flugelhorn) and Mell Csicsila (Percussion: Timpani/Bells/Chimes/Vibraphone/Xylophone/Accessories/Ethnic Drums/Unusual Instruments).

For the most part the show flies by rather rapidly in spite of it’s over two hour stage time with fifteen minute intermission. There are portions of the second act that seem to drag a bit but there is so much happening on the stage that you hardly notice. Special mention must be made of the fabulous costuming by Susan Hilferty and Stage Design by Eugene Lee combined with the fantastic Lighting by Kenneth Posner and Sound by Tony Meola.

This is the type of musical extravaganza that Broadway is famous for and well worth the ticket. All of the elements come together for this extraordinary example of Great White Way Huzzah. Wicked will put your entire family under its spell.

“Wicked” will be on stage in the KeyBank State Theatre at Playhouse Square through January 2, 2021. For information and tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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