By Buddy Jackson.
“I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too!” –The wicked Witch of the West
My experience with this show will be a memorable one. I have been performing in shows ranging from melodramas to musicals since I was five years old. So you could imagine my excitement when my wife had surprised me one day with matinee tickets to Wicked. I have wanted to see this Broadway phenomenon for three years now, and it was the best birthday present she could have gotten for me.
My wife told me that we had seats toward the back of the theater center row. I was pleased as punch just to be going. The surprise came when she started to go into the theater in 1-W. Now I was confused at first while I was following her to our seats. I honestly thought she was stealing someone else’s seats for the performance. Then she showed me the ticket stubs and I was blown away. I had the opportunity to sit in the second row center for this year’s showing of Wicked.
Upon entering into the Civic Center in downtown Des Moines, you can feel the excitement in the crowd, and immediately feel transported to OZ. On the stage you can clearly see the map of OZ with the ever memorable yellow brick road. Above the stage is a mechanical dragon that came to life, breathing smoke from its nose, eyes that had a red glow, and a head that moved back and forth.
The lights go down, and the music cues up for a whimsical tale of how Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. Jennifer DiNoia plays this iconic role with a strength and voice that captivates the minute she brings the first few notes from within. The minute she steps on stage the theater became a roar of applause, cheers, and whistles. DiNoia is thrilled and honored to join her fifth company of Wicked, which she states in the Who’s Who in the Cast program. She has also been seen as Elphaba on Broadway as well as in the Chicago, Australia and Seoul, Korea companies. Credits include: We Will Rock You, and Mama Mia! DiNoia’s voice has captivated audiences for years now and Des Moines was no different.
Another iconic role that was portrayed by Hayley Podschun was captivating and caught the imagination, and attention of all in attendance. Gasps, even from me, were heard throughout when Glinda made her appearance by “bubble” in the opening act. Podschun is actually from Kansas, and has been quoted as being “Beyond thrilled to be touring with Wicked by bubble.” Podschun’s melodic and hypnotizing soprano voice was beyond perfect for this role. Other performances that she has been involved with include: Chaplin, and Hairspray.
Who could forget about the Wonderful Wizard of OZ? Walker Jones’ performance brought a whole new light on who the Wizard really was. Jones has performed in stage shows ranging from Shakespeare to a Film called The Imposters. Jones has put a very Vaudeville spin on this very well-known character and brings him to a whole new level of wonderful.
My expectations were high going in to the theater and being completely swept away by the Wickedmania. I had heard some of the music scores before going to the shows and was blown away by what I had heard at the live performance. Hearing the actual voice behind the song was a site I will never forget. I am sure that many have heard Defying Gravity either on Multi-media or the hit T.V. show Glee. I have to say though, hearing DiNoia exude wickedness while singing this song gave me goose bumps.
I was a bit disappointed though with a part of the show. I was expecting the flying monkey’s to have their own interpretive dance and have more of an appearance rather than just climbing, or briefly flying across the stage. This, I am sure, might sound strange but the flying monkeys were a favorite of mine growing up. I would have loved to have seen them monkey around on stage. However, the costuming was ingenious and definitely brought Elphaba’s Hench monkeys to life.
There was something that I had found out that surprised me on the set design that I am not sure a lot of folks know about. The Wizards head is definitely an iconic part of the Wizard of Oz. I found out that it is not the original. There are actually several Heads that tour with the Wicked cast, and none of them are the same design. The basics are there but the overall structure was just odds and ends pieced together with some electric tape and a prayer. They wanted several of these heads on hand in case the unspeakable happened and one of them broke during the transportation on tour. The engineer that built the head was asked for the blue prints and he responded with he wasn’t sure how it is built because he used random materials that were just lying around.
As many of you know this show has been running since its premiere in 2003. I can see why it has been running for this long and why it has swept the country with its new found tale of the Witches of Oz. I still remember watching The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland, as a kid. I was hooked from the moment she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. My childhood has been put on stage and it was the most exciting, fantastical ride of my life to date. I have a feeling that this could be the Phantom of the Opera of the 2000’s. Remember that if you dream big anything is possible, especially in the Land of Oz This is a show that I would recommend for anyone to see and give this performance five stars.