“WICKED,” through March 3, Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main (801-355-2787 or broadway-at-the-eccles.com); running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (one intermission)
SALT LAKE CITY — The national touring cast of “Wicked” sent one message loud and clear during its Thursday night performance in Salt Lake City: Whether you’ve seen the Broadway blockbuster before or are a “Wicked” novice, there’s no better time to see “Wicked” than now.
The musical recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary on Broadway, and the stop at the Eccles Theater through March 3 marks “Wicked’s” fourth run in the Beehive State since 2009. But far from being old news, the touring production shows that the magic is still very much alive — something that can be largely attributed to the show’s leads, Jackie Burns as Elphaba and Kara Lindsay as Glinda.
Salt Lake City couldn't be luckier to have these two in town. When their contracts were announced in October, the pair was only scheduled through the San Diego, Los Angeles and Salt Lake runs. And although it is unconfirmed whether that is still true, it’s undeniable that their performances in Utah are, in fact, a treat. Let me repeat: Even if you have seen “Wicked” before, Burns and Lindsay make this production a must-see.
Lindsay, who previously played Glinda on Broadway and on the national tour of “Wicked,” is also recognized for originating the role of Katherine in “Newsies” on Broadway (Netflix subscribers can stream her performance in the live film of “Newsies”). Burns, who holds the title of Broadway’s longest-running Elphaba, also traveled with the “Wicked” national tour in the role, for which she won an Irene Award.
It's evident from start to finish that Burns’ and Lindsay’s backgrounds with the show have given them a deep, intimate understanding of the characters they portray. Although each has spent years in their respective roles, neither performance ever feels tired or pedestrian. Instead, if you didn’t know better, the gusto and heart with which they each performed might cause you to assume it was their first-ever performance.
For the uninitiated, “Wicked” is the “untold story of the witches of Oz,” as the musical’s tagline puts it. Based on the book by Gregory Maguire and featuring the setting and characters from L. Frank Baum’s beloved classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “Wicked” follows the unlikely friendship formed between Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, long before the twister ever carried Dorothy Gale to Oz.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, “Wicked” became an instant hit when it premiered on Broadway, where it’s still running more than 6,300 performances later. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning three — including for Susan Hilferty’s zany costume designs, complete with wacky hats rivaling Princess Beatrice of York’s hat at William and Kate’s wedding.
Lindsay’s perky, quirky Glinda matches Burns’ self-deprecating, strong-willed Elphaba, and both have the type of near-perfect vocal chops that will leave you reeling (if Burns’ performance in “Defying Gravity” doesn’t send chills down your spine, you might want to check to make sure you have a pulse). Add to that an equally talented ensemble that can dance, act and crescendo like nobody’s business, a detailed steampunk-inspired set and plenty of moments to make you laugh, and you have a theatrical feast for the eyes and ears.
But beyond the talent and the spectacle, “Wicked” also has themes that are perhaps even more relevant today than they were 15 years ago: Everyone deserves to be loved and understood; society should celebrate differences instead of allowing them to define and divide; and beautiful things happen when we see the good in others.
Yes, there’s no better time than now to see “Wicked.”
Content advisory: While there’s not anything objectionable in “Wicked,” artsaltlake.org recommends the show for ages 8 and up.
Note: Drawings for $25 “Wicked” tickets take place daily through the show’s run. Click here for additional information.