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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: ‘Wicked’ experience – the same but different four years later

Critic At Large

Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The hit show “Wicked” is thrilling crowds again at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

The present experience is just like the 2017 visit, but with a major difference.

Everybody has to wear a mask because of lingering concerns about COVID-19, and there is no debate.

There will be lots of masks during the run.

Somewhere around 45,000 people could see the show during its run of 24 performances – the most in the five times the national touring show has stopped at the PAC.

The scanning of tickets and the security checks cause lines to form.

The ticket part of the process is mostly non-contact.

Other safety measures are in place around the center.

Announcements remind patrons to keep their masks on at all times except when sipping a beverage.

All of the PAC staff members wear a reminder button that says, “Thank you for wearing a mask.”

At the opening performance Wednesday night, masks didn’t seem to hamper the experience.

It was business as usual at the merchandise counter in the lobby.

Folks took photos or selfies to document their experience.

Intermission, opening night. (Warren Gerds)

Inside the theater, a near full house roared excitedly for big moments.

The 2021 production of the touring “Wicked” (my review) is a virtual duplicate of the 2017 version in snap, flash and dazzle.

Goody-Goody Glinda and the dark Elphaba, the green one, are spectacularly played again.

This production is of tip-top quality, and the audience quickly discovers what has been missing in the more than 600 days since that last touring Broadway show visited Appleton.
The roar of a live throng is nothing like you can get from a screen…

And that’s why live theater lives.

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