Where: The Oriental Theatre, Chicago, IL
Wallet-Impact: $25 - $147.50
Such attention has been paid to details of this show that from the moment you walk through the doors of the Oriental Theatre, nay, from the very moment you purchase your tickets, you know you are going to see a show called "Wicked."
Whether you spend $147.50 online (plus Ticketmaster's convenient charge of $12.50 per ticket and the building fee of $2.50 per ticket) or $25 at the drawing that takes place every day before the show, one thing is certain: You're about to see a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz."
The story is as successfully told as any other story I've heard or read, in that words were put together into full sentences and lines of dialogue that comprised scenes of what appeared to be actual conversation. For the audience's convenience, there is no reading to be done: Instead, the lines of dialogue are said aloud by the actors who have either done a fantastic job memorizing them, or they have found a brilliant way to conceal the ink on the palms of their hands.
Occasionally, the characters break into song, at which point we can hear the sounds of instruments accompanying the melodies being sung by the actors onstage. It should be noted that unlike the lines of dialogue, the songs often having nothing at all to do with the action you see onstage. For example, one song, sung between two of the characters on it's surface seems to be about how much they like each other, when in reality, the staged events preceding and following this song seem to indicate the contrary. It might not make a lot of sense, but if you enjoy watching two ladies, one of them green, sing songs and dance onstage, then you could care less. And so could I.
Susan Hilferty has done an amazing job at the costume design. She has not forgotten for one moment that each actor needs to be wearing a costume, and indeed one cannot help but notice that they are all fully costumed. Furthermore, an observant viewer will not pass a 30 second interval without thinking, "Oh my goodness! That's exactly what an actor who needed clothes like that for their character would wear!"
Ms. Hilferty's work could not be appreciated without the artistic clairvoyance of Kenneth Posner's exquisite light design. The lights serve, at all times, to light both the stage and the actors, allowing us to see their costumes and where they are standing in relation to the other actors. While Posner did a stellar job for the most part, there were several moments when he must have accidentally bumped the light switch, leaving us in total darkness -- from memory this occurred at least 4 times, including just before the show began, right before the intermission, right after the intermission, and again just before the curtain call. Several audience members shrieked, two women went into labor, and at least three others (that I could see) got pregnant.
If you ask your friends who have seen this show, those who are not familiar with theatre will mention the amazing special effects. Indeed, there are some illusions that make good eye candy for the masses, but I could not be fooled into believing they were actually magic. There's a big wooden dragon that appears to be trained to move its mouth and wings, but it's actually controlled by an actor who is torturing it with a series of ropes and pulleys, and there's also a scene where a floating bubble is clearly suspended from the ceiling with 2 massive pipes dangling from the flyspace (a theatre term for the crotch of my pants).
In conclusion, you don't have to be a stevedore from Tuscon to enjoy "Wicked," but it certainly couldn't hurt.