‘Wicked’ celebrates 15 years and returns to Nashville

By Tessa Resko, Studio M staff //

In spring 2018, the hit musical “Wicked” celebrates its 15th anniversary. From London to Melbourne to Tokyo, “Wicked” has been on stages across the world, and it also has extensively toured the United States. In April, it will make its fourth appearance at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

The musical has previously been to TPAC in 2009, 2011 and 2014. While Nashville may seem like an unnatural habitat for Broadway to some, Nashville-based writer Amy Stumpfl disagrees.

“Because Nashville attracts such big shows [like ‘Wicked’], I think that’s a good indication of it as an arts community. If you look at the amount of established works and the room we provide for new ones, you can tell there is a hunger for Broadway-level performances,” Stumpfl said.

It has overcome early criticisms in stride while becoming the eighth longest-running Broadway show and busting box office records one after the other.

Because of the musical’s fame and accessibility due to constant tours and residencies, people have been returning to the audience again and again to re-experience the magic. Fifteen years of performance allows people to see it again with their children.

“Many people do not have the means to travel to Chicago or New York to see these fantastic shows, so it is really good that we can bring the show to them,” Stumpfl said.

Kevin Fallon, an entertainment writer for The Daily Beast, believes “Wicked” is keeping up with Disney in terms of familiarity.

“Little girls all over the world spend their childhoods singing the songs,” Fallon said, “but what makes ‘Wicked’ different is that it’s a twist on an American classic as where musical adaptations of Disney are the same story but on stage. People already know the story.”

The musical numbers and the storyline aren’t the only things that keep people hooked. Hannah McMurry, senior Middle Tennessee State University stage design student and a freelance set designer, finds the costumes and set to be her favorite focal point. She has seen the musical twice in Nashville.

“When we meet Elphaba’s mother and find she has taken a lover, the stage lights are green. Because of this, we can figure out who Elphaba’s real father is. The lighting is very much on purpose. And the costumes are gorgeous,” said McMurry.

“Wicked” is known for its extensive use of big notes in numbers such as “The Wizard and I,”No Good Deed” and, most notably, “Defying Gravity.” Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel were equipped with the pipes to carry strong characters and move the story along with poise and power.

This model of strong, singing female characters who save themselves has been mimicked since the production took flight. Disney, who is classically remembered for its “princess in distress” storyline — “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty”has evolved since its conception and now views itself as a vessel for female empowerment.

The most recently renowned princess story, “Frozen”, has broken records and inspired young girls to a degree unbeknownst before. Just like “Wicked,” Idina Menzel voices the the wallflower with the secret talent, Elsa. Her biggest number, “Let It Go,” is reminiscent of “Defying Gravity.” Fans of the modern Disney classic are sure to appreciate this musical as well, children and adults alike.

“Wicked” will be coming to TPAC from March 28 to April 22 during the 2018 season.

Tessa Resko is a senior studying journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.