My family outing to see "Wicked" Thursday in Durham started in the way those things often do – parents arguing about directions and children sullen about the sultry summer temperatures and the long walk from the parking deck. But once inside, the air conditioning of the Durham Performing Arts Center cooled those tempers and the performance took over.
At the end of the three-hour show, we agreed: "Wicked" exceeded our expectations.
The crowd at Thursday afternoon's matinee was made up largely of school groups. I have to assume those students and their minders knew the story and the score before the curtain lifted. But even the potentially jaded were moved to tears by the story of Elphaba, the green-skinned, misunderstood girl who grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West and her friend and rival Glinda the Good.
Tiffany Haas stole the show as Glinda, portraying the damage that can result when pretty and popular are used as stepping stones to success. Her three-step hair toss is textbook and emminently imitatable. She carried the show from start to finish, her character at once ever-true only to her own goals and changeable as a modern politician.
Christine Dwyer's Elphaba fascinated in green. My family talked for hours about the feat of makeup required to allow her to move, breathe and never smudge her fellow cast members.
Her "Wicked" witch was sympathetic and mesmerizing, especially in "Defying Gravity," immediately before the intermission. As Dwyer levitated off the stage, broom in hand, her voice commanded the room, raising goosebumps.
The "Wicked" run at the DPAC lasts through May 27, and tickets are still available for many performances.