Seven is the perfect number. Thursday night marked my seventh time seeing the hit musical "Wicked." Here's the countdown: Twice in San Francisco in high school, once in New York as a high school graduation present, three times in Chicago to see a family friend in the cast, and, now, once in Sacramento where the mind blowing show - as so many have called it - plays through June 17 at the Community Center Theater.
If you haven't seen the colorful musical, but still call yourself a musical theater fan, you have some catching up to do. The prequel to L. Frank Baum's classic book stretches the author's magical characters beyond imagination. Audiences learn about the college friendship between Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) and Glinda (the good witch), learn how the Wicked Witch of the West became "Wicked," and learn the true beginnings of our friends the tin man, scarecrow, cowardly lion, and, of course, that little farm girl Dorothy, and her dog, Toto, too.
The story brings shocking revelations for "Wicked" first-timers, and it's still just as fun as ever to hear the gasps of newcomers throughout the theater as all their preconceptions are blown away. The regulars add their own two cents to the fun with "ooos" and "awws" whenever the romantic plot elements come into play. I'll admit, seeing the show over and over again does get a bit old at times, but the audience reactions always make it more entertaining, and seeing a different cast add its own unique flair to the production each performance makes it fresh and new.
Much of the current cast has played in the Broadway version of "Wicked." Throughout the Sacramento run, Alli Mauzey plays Glinda, originally known as Galinda, a spoiled rich girl whom everyone loves. I had the pleasure of seeing Mauzey as love-crazed Lenora in the short lived, but fantastic Broadway musical version of the Johnny Depp film, "Cry Baby." Mauzey's interpretation of Glinda certainly harkens back to the silly, drawn out Lenora. Picture a hyper, boy-crazy blonde and you'll have a general idea of Glinda's youthful character. Out of the five or six different Glindas I have seen, Mauzey gave the most comedic version of the role. Her one fault comes when she overuses her character voice during her musical numbers. That character voice makes for a nasally sound that lacks the clarity and beauty Mauzey is clearly capable of and that Kristin Chenoweth did so well in the original Broadway cast.
Nicole Parker (Elphaba) has a strong personality and leaves a mark on audiences with her marvelous voice. The green "witch" carries the musical with show stopping numbers like "Defying Gravity," and Parker easily pulls off the difficult numbers with flying colors (particularly green and black).
Andy Kelso plays Fiyero, the handsome and rebellious rich boy torn between two powerful women. Kelso struggles with his voice in the first act, but comes back in the second act with smooth and enjoyable vocals. Perhaps one of the most impressive performances comes from Emily Ferranti in the underrated role of Nessarose, a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the East and Elphaba's older sister, who is constrained to a wheel chair. PJ Benjamin also has a smooth and sentimental voice as the Wizard of Oz, and Liz McCartney commands the stage as college professor and press secretary to the Wizard, Madame Morrible.
Combine this cast with chilling ensemble vocals, moving music, amazing lighting and special effects, and creative, unique costumes, and you have a production certain to sell out - and well on its way there, already. I mean, really, why can't people dress that way in real life? Who wouldn't want to live in such a fantastical world? And Sacramento audiences do have the chance to live in that special world for just a few short weeks as "Wicked" brings its amazing story and characters to life.
It may have been number seven for me, but I want to know, what's your perfect number?
Through June 17