“Wicked” Good: The Touring Musical at the Saenger Theater Is a Hit in New Orleans

Allison Bailey & Talia Suskauer in the North American Tour of WICKED (E). Photo by Joan Marcus.
Allison Bailey & Talia Suskauer in the North American Tour of WICKED (E). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Story by Hannah Darcey, junior at Mount Carmel Academy. Mentored by Liam Pierce.

The lobby of the Saenger Theatre Thursday night was filled with the smell of popcorn, lines of people taking pictures with cardboard cutouts, and children dressed in witch costumes. No, it wasn’t for Harry Potter. This could only mean that the hit Broadway musical “Wicked” has once again come to New Orleans.

As you entered the theater, your eye couldn’t help but catch on the sparkling, green Emerald City, highlighted in the middle of the map of Oz painted on the closed curtain. Excitement filled the air as the audience—many coming from out of town—anxiously awaited for the show to begin. For the most part, as comes with the territory of a 16-year-old show, the audience knew what they were getting themselves into.

Sharon Sachs as Madame Morrible in WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus

The original cast of “Wicked” first opened their show at the Gershwin Theatre on October 30, 2003.  Since then, it has toured to 16 countries and has been translated into six languages. It’s estimated that it has been seen 55 million times worldwide. This show has become so, ahem, popular that it is the seventh-longest running show on Broadway.

But on tour in New Orleans, the amount of dedication to this particular production was apparent and faithful, perfectly showcasing the talented cast and crew. Sure, there were some big ruby slippers to fill, but the North American touring cast was phenomenal, consisting of leads Talia Suskauer (Elphaba), Allison Bailey (Glinda), Sharon Sachs (Madame Morrible), and Cleavant Derricks (The Wizard). 

All of the leads showcased their distinct, wonderful voices, and were able to hit the high notes gracefully. Amanda Fallon Smith (Nessarose) didn’t have too many opportunities to shine, but on her solo, “The Wicked Witch of the East,” she hit the high notes effortlessly, stupefying the audience with her range. 

Among the most notable aspects of the show were the costumes, set, vocals, hair, and makeup. They say the brightest lights shine on Broadway, but at the Saenger, the brightest light on stage was the collective talent. Cast and crew alike. And with a fan following like “Wicked’s,” it’s important to make sure you get every detail right.

This isn’t the first time the Emerald and Crescent cities have merged. This show has become such a hit in New Orleans that it has come back every three years since 2010. Some audience members were excited to experience the world of Oz for the first time—a couple of people who hadn’t seen the show were purchasing merchandise even before it began. But others were excited to be brought back to the land they had fallen in love with many times before. One woman said that she had seen the show 11 times in multiple places, including New Orleans, Houston, and London.

“Extravagant” doesn’t even begin to describe how the theater was transformed into the well-known land of Oz. Layer on top of layer of set would drop down, creating the locations known to both the show and the film. After the curtain was drawn, Glinda gracefully floated down to the middle of the stage in a beautiful dress as a leader to her adoring citizens, and everything felt so familiar. The background would also subtly change colors, depicting the character on stage: green for Elphaba and pink for Glinda.

Allison Bailey in the North American Tour of WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Wizard (that is to say: The Wizard’s puppet) was two times the size of a person, with its mechanical moving face, glowing eyes, and big mouth that expressed the emotions of the wizard hiding behind it.

The costumes were spectacular, each one detailed with texture. But perhaps no other costume was as intricate as the acrobatic monkeys’, showing veiny details on their arms and body. Glinda wore a beautiful poofy dress, looking like Cinderella with her tiara and wand. And Elphaba’s basic blue knit hat, jacket, skirt, and oval glasses contrasted with everyone else’s elaborate costumes, always drawing your eye. And her costume evolved throughout the show, alongside her character. 

Tom Flynn as Doctor Dillamond in WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus

One line that resonated with our New Orleans audience came when Glinda and Elphaba started talking before the show’s signature song, “Popular.” Glinda questioned Elphaba after Elphaba revealed that she had never gone to a party before. “Do funerals count?” Elphaba responded and it prompted one audience member—likely a regular at second lines— to shout, “Hey!” excitedly. 

In the song, Glinda explains what shoes Elphaba should wear, how to fix her hair—toss, toss—and everything she needs to know to become what Glinda believes is a better version of Elphaba. Glinda had a whirlwind of emotional changes, which Bailey handled terrifically. 

Another musical number that was a clear fan-favorite in the show was “Defying Gravity,” a song about breaking past limits and going for your dreams. In the scene, Elphaba steps into a new sense of confidence and power as she soars into the air on her broom, above the guards attempting to capture her. She wore a humongous black cape that engulfed the whole stage as the light shimmered on her, displaying her newly-found power. “Everyone deserves the chance to fly,” Suskauer sang, belting out the song perfectly. The scene had the audience applauding raucously before intermission.

Although there may have been a missed cue or two toward the beginning of the show, the overall production quality overshadowed any minor mishaps. The North American tour of “Wicked” lived up to expectations of a Broadway quality production, doing justice to the songs, choreography, set, costume, hair, makeup, and everything that went into making the original show a success. By the end, it had the whole audience wanting to follow the yellow-brick road and into the land of Oz!

Remaining Showtimes:

Click Here to check availability and purchase tickets online from the Saenger Theater.
Tue. October 8, 2019 : 7:30 PM
Wed. October 9, 2019 : 7:30 PM
Thu. October 10, 2019 : 7:30 PM
Fri. October 11, 2019 : 8 PM
Sat. October 12, 2019 : 2 PM
Sat. October 12, 2019 : 8 PM
Sun. October 13, 2019 : 1 PM
Sun. October 13, 2019 : 6:30 PM
Tue. October 15, 2019 : 7:30 PM
Wed. October 16, 2019 : 7:30 PM
Thu. October 17, 2019 : 7:30 PM
Fri. October 18, 2019 : 8 PM
Sat. October 19, 2019 : 2 PM
Sat. October 19, 2019 : 8 PM
Sun. October 20, 2019 : 1 PM
Sun. October 20, 2019 : 6:30 PM