Like a well-oiled clock, the national touring production of "Wicked" moves precisely, entertains and features a pair of witches who are sure to cast a spell on Utah audiences over the next several weeks.
Alli Mauzey is perfectly delightful as the blond do-gooder witch Galinda. In fact, it's safe to say I've been "Mauzeyfied."
I've been fortunate enough to have seen "Wicked" three times now and feel safe in saying that Mauzey is the best Galinda I've ever seen. Her dead-on comedic timing -- coupled with her sparkling soprano -- brought to the part nuances and one-liners I'd never before appreciated.
One example: In a desperate bid for attention, Galinda changes her name to Glinda. "I'm Glinda, The 'Ga' is silent," she announces. Mauzey's talents with one-liners like that one would make the practically perfect Mary Poppins jealous with envy -- but that's another show.
One of the most popular numbers in the musical is the comical number "Popular," in which Glinda (because she's so nice) decides to undertake a makeover for her newfound friend and greenie Elphaba -- aka The Wicked Witch of the West.
Many are familiar with the song first made famous by Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda on Broadway. It's a charming and clever song -- and a lot of fun. However, I sort of OD'd on it a few years back after attending a rehearsal in which it seemed every other female auditioner decided to sing that particular song for her audition.
I thought I'd be good never hearing it again, but Mauzey changed that. Her energetic rendition of "Popular" -- with heel kicking, hair tossing and hysterical squealing -- was one of the show's highlights. It left me and many others in the audience in stitches.
"I always enjoy doing 'Popular' because there is so much humor in it," Mauzey told me in an earlier interview before the show arrived earlier this month at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. "That's one of the parts of the play where I can be a little bit looser and it changes a lot from night to night, which is really fun for me and our current Elphaba Nicole Parker ... it's fun to balance off of her and her Elphaba in that number."
The two actresses, both of whom are from Southern California, balance off each other quite nicely and have amazing chemistry.
Parker matches Mauzey's talents as the misunderstood and maligned heroine of the story. There were enthusiatic cheers from the audience after the stirring "The Wizard and I" and "Defying Gravity," the soaring finale of the first act. Parker is also riveting -- and a little scary (in a good way) -- in "No Good Deed."
Supporting cast members who stood out include Liz McCartney as the diabolical Madame Morrible and Kevin McHanon as the charmingly smarmy Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
I wasn't as thrilled with Andy Kelso's performance as Fiyero, the character who finds himself in a love triangle with Glinda and Elphaba. Kelso is a skilled actor with good stage presence, but his vocal skills were not on the same level as the two leads. This was particularly apparent in the sultry love duet "As Long You're Mine," which didn't pack the punch I would expect from a national touring production.
Overall, though, the production earns high marks and is best when Mauzey and Parker are onstage together. The two are particularly fun to watch as they get into each other's faces -- quite literally -- while loathing each other in "What Is This Feeling." That particular number also demonstrates the absolute importance of a strong ensemble in a production. In song and dance, the ensemble skillfully proves it is up to the challenge as members side with Glinda and gang up on a solitary Elphaba. It's a striking visual moment in the story.
The cast does it again just a short while later in the big production number "Dancing Through Life," which also includes a sweet little segment I'd never noticed before. Elphaba starts it off in the Ozdust Ballroom with some rather geeky dance moves. She is soon joined by Glinda, who realizes at this point in the story that she has sort of been a b---- (rhymes with witch). Their movements become fluid and mirror each other as the two begin to forge a bond. It's a lovely little moment.
Little moments like that -- along with a lot of really big moments -- have made "Wicked" a sensation. The Stephen Schwartz score is captivating, the choreography is engaging and the costumes are dazzling -- plus there are a lot of very cool theatrical effects, including a floating bubble, a gravity-defying Wicked Witch and flying monkeys.
What more could you want?