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10 years later, 'Wicked' still a fun ride

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 8:19 a.m. MDT

Gina Beck as Glinda, left, and Emma Hunton as Elphaba in the national tour of Gina Beck as Glinda, left, and Emma Hunton as Elphaba in the national tour of "Wicked" coming to Salt Lake City July 9-Aug. 24. (Joan Marcus)

“WICKED,” national tour, through Aug. 24, Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South (801-355-2787 or arttix.org), running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (one intermission)

Though “Wicked” opened on Broadway over 10 years ago, though the national tour has come through town twice, and though most folks can sing the songs backward and forward, the frenzy for the musical does not appear to have waned in the slightest — at least if Thursday night’s crowd is any indication.

The musical will be at the Capitol Theatre for a lengthy seven-week run, which is much longer than the six-day stints of most tours and with good reason — the Salt Lake City appetite for the musical is big.

And this production holds up to the anticipation.

“Wicked” explores what happened before Dorothy and Toto’s fateful trip, and it’s fun and poignant.

Emma Hunton as Elphaba, left, and Gina Beck as Glinda in the national tour of Emma Hunton as Elphaba, left, and Gina Beck as Glinda in the national tour of "Wicked" coming to Salt Lake City July 9-Aug. 24. (Joan Marcus)

The musical adaptation of the Gregory Maguire novel is much lighter than Maguire’s version. The story asks the questions: What makes a person “good” or “wicked”? What if the two witches in the iconic “The Wizard of Oz” were actually just misunderstood? Could it be possible that they were once friends?

First of all, the show is massive in scope. It’s large, it’s lavish, it’s colorful, it’s full of life. “Wicked” is like the “Phantom” of a past generation; it's a jaw-dropping memorable experience that many theatergoers will talk about for years to come. These are the shows that draw newcomers to theater and convince youngsters that they want to take part in it someday. The ensemble, in many colorful and imaginative costumes, sells the group numbers powerfully.

Emma Hunton as Elphaba in the national tour of Emma Hunton as Elphaba in the national tour of "Wicked" coming to Salt Lake City July 9-Aug. 24. (Joan Marcus)

But to really nail this one, there needs to be a couple of actresses who are funny, have some acting chops and can sing — really sing. They’ve got to have a handle on a lovely lyrical style, and then they need to be able to unleash that style and fill the theater with power.

By the time Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) finishes her first song, “The Wizard and I,” the audience is able to relax a bit knowing they’re in good hands with Emma Hunton. She’s a slightly sassier Elphaba, not quite as stoic, and milks her comedic moments. Hunton really shines during all of Elphaba’s power songs and brought the house down with her intensity during “No Good Deed.”

Gina Beck’s Glinda is a bit less fluffy than other Glindas — her humor is not quite as overt. She’s plenty funny, but she really shines during Glinda’s more introspective moments, which brings a nice depth to a flighty character. And yes, she sings beautifully too.

Alison Fraser’s accent and characterizations make Madame Morrible a bit difficult to understand. As the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Tim Kazurinsky just doesn’t quite rise to the heights of the witches. At times it feels like he is just marking, going through the paces rather than performing, which is especially evident during his duet with Hunton.

Ten years later, the show is still a fun ride. Capitol Theatre is currently under construction, so plan extra time for parking. And don’t forget to pick up a booster seat for the kiddos on the way in.

Erica Hansen was the theater editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company