From the moment the curtain is raised, it’s clear that no one mourns the wicked… although labels can be deceiving.
In the world of WICKED, nothing is quite as it seems. This is the untold story of the witches of Oz, taking place before Dorothy rides a twister into town from Kansas.
Elphaba’s clearly the fish out of water, here. Although she may look different from everybody else, she yearns to be accepted by her peers. Alternately, Glinda is the popular girl, who feasts on praise and attention. When the two aspiring witches become unlikely college roommates, they realize friendships can be incredibly complicated. Eventually, they learn to love each other, although each character takes different paths to find true happiness in their lives.
Although both Elphaba and Glinda fall for the same guy (the deeply shallow Fiyero), only one will sacrifice everything for the greater good.
Gina Beck’s Glinda exaggerates her pronunciations and mannerisms to become a believably pretentious character with hilarious results. Unlike Alison Luff’s Elphaba, whose underdog is easy to cheer for. Both actors are great singers, by the way. Speaking of great acting, the exact moment when Elphaba truly turns evil, she evokes a great cackle, which is eerily similar to the one from The Wizard of Oz, which eliciting a great applause afterward.
With incredibly detailed sets, intricate costumes, an effective smoke machine and many laser lights, WICKED has raised the bar for production value. And that doesn’t include the music. As a returnee, the music of WICKED was a huge draw. The orchestra’s performance was vivid and definitely felt like a strong supporting character of the story.
Throughout the musical, there are many in-jokes that recalled references from The Wizard of Oz novel and movie, which preceded WICKED and were very funny. One of the highlights of the show was the double-talking wizard, played by Tim Kazurinsky. I was constantly trying to figure out how I recognized him, because he looks and sounds familiar. By the intermission, I recognized him from his role in the Police Academy movies. He did a fine job as the Wiz.
After the lights were raised, I asked my friend, who has never watched The Wizard of Oz or seen Wicked before, what she thought of the show. She was blown away by the acting, singing, storyline and costuming. She also thought it was tons better than the recent Sam Raimi movie, Oz the Great and Powerful. I agreed with her on all counts.
Even though the odds may be stacked against her, Elphaba never truly is wicked… and it could be very dangerous to judge a book by its cover. Such a great musical that includes a great message.
WICKED appears at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center from March 26th to April 20th.