After her singing career grew from her bedroom in Miami, writing songs and singing them through the mouths of her Barbie dolls, Mariand Torres knew she was meant to be a star. Performing in productions like “Hansel and Gretel” from a young age to get her first taste of the entertainment industry, Torres worked her way to the top of the Broadway food chain, moving to New York City and, eventually, being hired on as a standby for the role of Elphaba in the first national tour of “WICKED.” Fast forward to the show’s 2019 tour, and Torres has become both the lead and, arguably, the standout star of the production, particularly in the March 8 evening performance at Boise State’s Morrison Center.
Torres, while not alone in bringing impeccable vocal performances to center stage, essentially created her own spotlight throughout the performance, especially in Elphaba’s solo track, “Defying Gravity.” Even in shared scenes with main characters like the Wizard of Oz and Glinda the Good, Torres consistently drew the focus to Elphaba’s character and her stunning vibrato that seemed to shake the seats halfway across the auditorium during each performance.
In terms of major characters, Erin Mackey brought the beloved Glinda to life with an aloof and confident personality that felt like the relatable mean girl in high school; this one, however, redeems herself in the end. Mackey has vocals that can only be described as opera-esque, supported by near perfect pitch and a character as dramatic as her runs. Other standout performances were plenty. One such performer is named Sharon Sachs, who plays Madame Morrible, whose character has an incredible sound development throughout the performance and a sweet demeanor that, often, feels off-putting in the best way. Curt Hansen, the universal love interest, Fiyero, and Mili Diaz, who portrays Nessarose, the Wicked Witch of the East, are also noteworthy in vocals and acting performance, capping the ends of a well-rounded and talented central cast.
Although the performers are, quite literally, the stars of the show, the acclaimed production and set design of “WICKED” deserve more praise of its own. The stage, which feels small upon first glance, was crowded with steampunk features, industrializing everything from the gears on each side of the stage to the bubble that Glinda floats into the stage on. Although the effects feel, at least in some ways, detached from “The Wizard of Oz” that many know and love, the steampunk stylistic choices give a fresh and modern take on a decades-told story that deserved a second glance.
Each aspect of the production would cease to exist without the music and story, which fit effortlessly into the timeline of “The Wizard of Oz” while simultaneously changing the way audiences remember the story of the original script. The musical’s writing was impressive, taking the time to explain the origins of each of the main characters from the source material, as well as bringing a major plot twist to the end of story that would leave even the most devoted “Oz” fans at a loss for words. The composing and lyrical content, however, felt seamless even in the most daunting moments of the plot.
“WICKED” was different, without a doubt, but like its main character’s story, it stands out in a definitively good way. With little to complain about in terms of this particular performance of the popular production, the witchy musical was a positive addition to the Morrison Center’s Broadway in Boise lineup. The tour will remain on Boise State’s campus until March 17 with some tickets still available for later performance dates, and is set to be followed up by the touring production of “Something Rotten!” on April 12 and 13 only.