Theater Review: Wicked at the Eccles Defies Gravity AND Expectations

Wicked became in instant classic when it debuted on Broadway with a cast brimming with musical powerhouses 15 years ago. But this show isn’t going out of style anytime soon: the cast touring at the Eccles this month have a new treat and a fresh set of chills with every set change.

LOTTERY: You can enter to win two $25 orchestra seats to any day-of performance! The lottery begins 2.5 hours before each performance, just head to the Black Box Theater office to get your name on the list. If you’re selected, you have to be there in person, with your ID and $25 cash. Opening night tickets start at $130. So it’s a wicked deal. Sorry. Had to do it.

Kara Lindsay was an even more ditsy and loveable Galinda (with a “Gaaaa”) than I expected, and was bubbly in every sense of the word. Her giggly airhead demeanor and obnoxious flouncing around the stage had the whole crowd cracking up, instantly smitten with that first pop-u-lar note. The opera styling quintessential to the role is a bit of a departure from Lindsay’s usual belt numbers, but she nails it right on every time.

Jackie Burns was a true force as Elphaba. She holds the title of the longest-running wicked witch, and it definitely shows. Her experience with Elphie lets her make the role all her own despite having the massive shoes of Idina Menzel to fill. (Side rant: A lady in front of me was telling her friend the history of the show, and struggled through Idina’s name before giving up and just calling her “the Frozen girl.” You’d think after John Travolta’s botch job at the Oscars in 2015 cemented the pronunciation in everyone’s brains forever, but I guess not. Whatever.)

Back to the important topic: Jackie Burns’ set of incredible pipes.In the iconic act-one finale Defying Gravity, Burns’ performance was almost ethereal. I grew up a musical theater geek, and that song is one of the most over-performed in the high-school theater world, believe me. So it takes a lot for me to not roll my eyes at it and skip to the next song in my Broadway playlist. But Jackie Burns made it a whole new experience, and it blew me away.

Wicked Jackie Burns and Kara Lindsay

One of my favorite parts of this show are the well-rounded harmonies that send shivers down your spine, and this tour’s ensemble blew them out of the water. Despite being a relatively small cast, they still pack a knock-your-socks-off wall of sound. When combined with their emotion and dynamics, their performance makes the show amazing. They say a team is only as strong as its weakest member, and this show set the threshold up in the rafters! Every ensemble number had us dancing in our seats, probably to the dismay of everyone around us. Whoops!

But why on earth should we all see this at the Eccles, you ask? Because the space opens up all sorts of new possibilities for showing off the set and the show. We heard murmurs all through intermission about how much the new facility improved the show: countless “I saw this when it toured at Capitol and…” statements gushed about the acoustics, the high ceilings and how everyone gets a view of dynamic costumes and choreography. That steampunk set that everyone knows, whether by attending or seeing gloating posts on Instagram, is always a showstopper but the tall stage of the Eccles lets those mechanical layers shine. Given its full range, the set can be anything. Menacing, inviting, whimsical, you name it!

Original Broadway Company set for Wicked.

There really is no better time than now to see this show, for a parade of reasons that don’t include the treat of a theater. The cherished lesson of seeing the other side of “different,” rather than letting differences divide us, is needed in our climate now more than ever. Every line about silencing others, plus the entirety of “Wonderful” had my politics-buff husband reeling at the cultural relevance for today’s world. Seeing all sides of the story feels even more critical today than it did over a decade ago when the Wicked story began.

So whether you’re in it for the hype, the local orchestra members, brilliant schoolbook-filled choreography or just because you’re curious about the background of that iconic Wicked Witch hat, RUN down to Eccles tonight to get your name on that ticket lottery list.

Wicked runs through March 3, 2019 at theGeorge S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater, 131 Main St., SLC. Tickets and info here.

See all of our theater coverage here.

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