I've only seen the show once live (with Anne Brummel as Elphaba, and Natalie Daradich as Glinda), but it was amazing. VERY spectacular props, effects, and above all, music. I have no idea why critics pooh-poohed the songs here, as "Defying Gravity" alone is my favourite song of all time, and there's still a handful of amazing works to it. "What Is This Feeling?" is funny, "As Long As You're Mine" is sexy, and "No Good Deed" is greatly crazy and furious-sounding.
Elphie & Glinda are fantastic characters, with Elphie's biting sarcasm playing very well off of Glinda's showy Hamminess. It can go a bit too far, to the point where Glinda's charisma steals every scene, but Elphaba can hold her own. "Popular" is pretty much the standard to which all Glinda's are judged — most audiences come out of it VERY impressed by the actress.
There's a few flaws that I can see. The whole "Defender of the Animals" plot would be more effective if the beloved Doctor Dillamond had more than two or three scenes, or if we saw many other Animals at all. Fiyero is a totally flat character type for the most part, and we're supposed to believe that this half-assed student and lazy Prince is "deep down" a really nice guy after doing one act of kindness. Beyond "No Good Deed", the show lacks a strong "Villain Song" — The Wizard (who has the most incredible prop EVER, by the way) gets some old-timey songs where he tries to B.S. his way into Elphaba's good graces, but nothing great. Madame Morrible doesn't get one either, and she is PRIME territory for a "Poor Unfortunate Souls" deal. Poor Nessarose only gets a few chances to show off her singing chops, and they're ALL very good singers.
But yeah, there are some EPIC moments here. Elphaba's first flight never fails to impress, the songs are amazing in person and on CD, and I don't think I've ever seen a Glinda that was anything short of magnificent on You Tube
clips. Opinions vary over the talent of the Elphabas (with some idiotic comments on forums & You Tube
), but almost all of them are great. Idina Menzel is the star and a goddess, Kristin Chenoweth is awesome, and Eden Espinosa easily rivals Elphie's originator as well. Daradich was spectacular as Glinda in the show I saw.