In case you've been living under a musical theater rock for the last nearly 20 years, here's a brief plot summary. Wicked is based on the book of the same name by Gregory Maguire, which is a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In this new mythology, before Dorothy and her house land in Oz, Glinda the good witch and Elphaba the wicked witch are two young women who find themselves roommates at school and become unlikely friends and allies. All is not right in the land of Oz; human-like Animals are seeing their rights and voices taken away. Elphaba discovers that the Wizard is behind all of this, and becomes a fugitive as she works against him to free the Animals. Glinda is seemingly on the Wizard's side, but the two never lose their connection, despite both loving the same man. The romance is compelling but it is refreshingly not the focus of the show; Wicked is really about the friendship between these two very different women and each of them discovering who they are, and helping each other in that discovery ("Because I knew you, I have been changed for good"). Anyone who's ever felt like an outcast in any situation can relate to Elphaba; she's a wonderful inspiration, especially for girls to grow up as strong women ("I'm through accepting limits, 'cause someone says they're so. Some things I cannot change but 'til I try I'll never know"). Wicked explores the ideas of good and wicked ("are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?") and the fact that in real life (and sometimes in musicals) it's never as simple as good and wicked, there's a lot of room in between where most of us live. Like Fiyero, Wicked is much deeper than its beautiful exterior might imply.*
|BFFs Glinda (Jennafer Newberry) and Elphie
(Lissa Deguzman, photo by Joan Marcus)
Newberry is an absolute delight as Glinda, possessing a gorgeous soprano voice that she's also skilled in using for comedic effect, personalizing the iconic role with lots of cute little tics and squeals. Lissa Deguzman is equally strong as Elphaba - awkward, funny, vulnerable, strong, and a serious belter. Glinda and Elphaba is the central relationship of the show, and these two are so believable as friends, with a prickly but warm chemistry.
|Elphie and Glinda are paired by Madame Morrible (Lisa Howard),
while Nessarose (Kimberly Immanual) looks on
(photo by Joan Marcus)
If you have time at intermission after waiting in the super long but surprisingly efficient bathroom line, check out the pit, that holds 14 musicians, two-thirds of them local, playing nearly twice as many different instruments (if only I hadn't given up the clarinet). Stephen Schwartz's endlessly singable score sounds amazing in the hands of these musicians (under conductor Evan Roider, whose sure hands you can see popping out of the pit guiding the performers). Combined with the harmonizing and soloizing (I can make up words too) from the uber talented cast, they create a full rich sound that's a joy to listen to.
|the students of "Dear Old Shiz" (photo by Joan Marcus)
Wicked is the rare phenomenon of a musical that lives up to the hype. Yes, it's a spectacle with showy sets and costumes, but it also has a ton of heart, a clever and catchy score, and an inspiring message. And nearly 20 years later, they're still finding new talent to fill these iconic roles and make them their own. That's what makes Wicked worthy of repeat (and repeat, and repeat) viewing.