For two weeks, Eugene has gone Wicked over Wicked. Performing at the Hult Center in the downtown, the spoof musical about the Land of Oz before Dorothy drops in has got pointy hats and magical melodies caught in the minds of the locals. And while the ever popular song “Popular” sticks in your head like chewed gum to a shoe – it’s a show I could not pass up to see.
The winner of 35 major awards including three Tony Awards and a Grammy, Wicked transformed the Hult Center. I’m surprised the sidewalks leading into the glass three-tiered pyramid-shaped theater in the heart of Eugene weren’t lined with yellow bricks. Walking into the lobby thirty minutes before the show, the crowd was buzzing with excitement. From formal suites with pink popping ties and gold sparkly dresses fit for the Good Witch Glinda to jeans and sneakers and of course a few black pointed witch hats, the audience rambled the lobby to find their seats like the chaotic and energized munchkins after Dorothy’s house fell in to Munchkinland – and Wicked is a pretty big house to land in Eugene – so you can imagine the excitement.
From my seat in the Mezzanine the metal dragon, which hovers high above the stage, stared me in the eye ready to challenge me to not enjoy the play and before you know it the lights dimmed and the Oz-ful duel was on.
The dragon won. Above the suburb and powerful voices and as my sister described the “cheese-tastic” plot, the set and special effects outshined the story and characters. With smoke machines, tracking gear-like walls, a giant moving bubble, and an Emerald City that shown so bright the actors had to wear sunglasses, the stage at the Hult was surrounded with animation and color.
While, I’m not sure if I’d say Wicked lived up to the standard set for it, the show did successfully wow the crowd into laughter with light moments of silly humor by Glinda and revealed a heartfelt story of the Wicked-Witch-of-the-West’s creation with the song “Defining Gravity” the pinnacle of the show. Raised high above the stage, with her green skin shining in contrast to the black consuming the stage around her, the actress’s voice pierced throughout the performing arts center as she departed into the western skies – as the crowd should have done after this number. The second half of the show, with its twists and turns, was a little out of the ordinary and unexpected – but not necessarily in a good way – where you walk away leaving the theater with a question mark on your face and asking yourself “what just happened?”
Wicked is still and will be I’m sure for years to come a must-see show, pleasing crowds around the nation with its fun, poppy music and one-liners. And even though I left the performance a little underwhelmed, I think Wicked is a great show to introduce new audiences to the excitement and music of theater. And with the variety of attendees and overall general enthusiasm, I believe Eugenians embraced OZ and all its witchy-wonder. – Kelsey Ivey