Group: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd.
Dates: Through Jan. 6
Tickets: From $38; 534-1111 or metrotix.com
Story: Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, rules the Land of Oz from her perch in a bubble that hovers over the kingdom. Before Glinda was ruler, however, she was a popular student at Shiz University. She describes in flashback her friendship with another young student at that time, Elphaba, who came to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Elphaba was ostracized for her green skin, a condition caused by a strange potion given to her mother by a traveling salesman who impregnated her. Elphaba’s father, the governor of Munchkinland, was horrified by the sight of his daughter, so much so that he took extraordinary precautions when his wife became pregnant again. Those extreme measures led to his second daughter, Nessarose, being born prematurely and confined later to a wheelchair.
When Nessarose went away to Shiz University, her father ordered Elphaba to accompany and care for her sister. Elphaba’s magical powers, however, are noticed by Madame Morrible, head of the university and a woman who can control weather. Morrible tells her friend, the Wizard of Oz, about Elphaba’s abilities. The two conspire to use Elphaba to repress the Munchkins and also to subjugate the animals of the kingdom.
Blonde, ditzy Galinda and intelligent, passionate Elphaba form an unlikely friendship that is tested by their mutual attraction to a handsome student named Fiyero. Galinda, who changes her name to Glinda, also is hopelessly admired by a Munchkin named Boq, whom she convinces to care for Nessarose instead, leading to further romantic and tragic complications. So, who is truly wicked in the Land of Oz?
Highlights: Since its inception in 2003, Wicked has broken numerous box-office records nationally and internationally. It set records at The Fox, as well; and now, the fourth road show is playing once again at The Fox as a holiday offering that underscores the enduring popularity of this work.
The Wicked phenomenon started with the publication of the novel by Gregory Maguire in 1995, which took its inspiration from the classic story by L. Frank Baum. Maguire’s tale, which is set before, during and after Dorothy’s arrival, tells the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West from a vastly different viewpoint. Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz then freely adapted Maguire’s novel into the wildly successful musical version, collaborating with author Winnie Holzman, who penned the script.
That cast includes stellar work by Christine Dwyer as Elphaba and Jeanna De Waal as Glinda. The latter is expert at conveying Glinda’s butchery of the English language with humorous effect, while also showing her evolution from vacuous airhead to a sadder but wiser ruler. As Elphaba, Dwyer is equally convincing bringing the ‘different’ girl’s indomitable spirit and fight for justice to the fore.
Wicked remains very much an acquired taste, perhaps best loved by aficionados of the original Oz book and movie, neither of which has never been on my own personal list of favorites, albeit timeless classics. No matter. The cast of this production sings quite convincingly and acts most impressively, elements fans of the show will doubtless appreciate.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.