“Wicked” at the Arsht Center Defies Gravity

To only solidify its place as the one of, if not the one, most recognizable musicals in the history of musicals, Wicked found its way to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the fourth time. Beginning February 16, and running until March 5, the infamous Elphaba and the famous Glinda share the stage to melt your hearts alongside your best friend’s. South Florida Theater Magazine was there for the run during the last days of February to see how the classic fared in 2023, and it did not disappoint.

As someone new to the South Florida area, and as one who is new to musicals as an art form, Wicked is something even I knew. To me, this musical seems to be something larger than the art form itself, borrowing from source material upon source material, building upon an audience goer’s knowledge of The Wizard of Oz. The cover of the show features the Wicked Witch of the East and her iconic green skin, but unlike the movie we’re all familiar with, she’s the protagonist of Wicked, not the antagonist.

Jennafer Newberry as Glinda and Lissa deGuzman as Elphaba in the National Tour of WICKED, photo by Joan Marcus

That said, I had never seen the show before, so I knew I was in for a treat. Little did I know I was going to hear live instrumentation as well. The Ziff Opera House at Arsht features a symphony pit, and the traveling show employed its own musicians. Some local Miami musicians also got to play alongside the New York tour. The stage was even fastened with a mechanical dragon and a set design to resemble a clock; the musical is framed to be set within the Clock of the Time Dragon, a nod to the readers of the original book.

To summarize a bit, the story begins at the end of The Wizard of Oz; Elphaba (Lissa deGuzman) has been drenched in water and Glinda (Jennafer Newberry) tells the people of Oz that the witch indeed has been killed by the human girl, Dorothy. The musical then begins as it takes the audience back and tells the untold tale of the Wicked Witch. Born from a magic encounter, Elphaba inherited green skin and a whole lot of prejudice because of it. However, she was also born with immense supernatural power.

The Wizard covets this power, wants her to remove the talking animals ability to be vocal, and ultimately turns the society of Oz against when she refuses. Elphie elopes with Fiyero (Christian Thompson) and the Wizard conjures Dorothy’s house to crush her sister, the one with the ruby red slippers. With rage, she sets out to take revenge on the Wizard and Oz. In a trick of play, she pretends to melt from a simple splash of water, forces the Wizard to abdicate this throne, allows Glinda to rule Oz, and runs away with Fiyero in utter joy.

Lissa deGuzman as Elphaba and Jennafer Newberry as Glinda in the National Tour of WICKED, photo by Joan Marcus

The highlight of the night is expected, but should still be mentioned due to high production, skill, and impact. When Elphaba closed out the first act of the show to “Defying Gravity,” you could feel the electricity across every show and every performance since its premiere over 15 years ago in New York. Lights dimmed, she lifted into the air, and ethereal lights obscured her profile, only revealing her portrait. Real magic.

Lissa deGuzman as Elphaba in the National Tour of WICKED, photo by Joan Marcus – 0297r

Don’t miss the closing weekend of Wicked at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami! You can buy tickets here (https://www.arshtcenter.org/tickets/2022-2023/broadway-in-miami/wicked/?gclid=Cj0KCQiA0oagBhDHARIsAI-BbgfWer5erC2TtZgFIGGsSfusrRQx_pM2gMXKqMFYoXCVJKsQYAw8jqUaAuIIEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds).

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