Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz became an instant classic once it hit the stage nine years ago, and, to no one’s surprise, has since made more than a few tours around the country (and the world). The fairytale returned to the Orpheum Theater last week for the fourth time. Yet it still feels as magical as it did the first time around.
There was nothing new or different about this performance of the now well-known story, but, in this instance, that’s a good thing. Every aspect of the production, from the lighting to the smoke-ridden stage effects, was utterly flawless and a joy to watch. The performances by the leads and chorus members were brilliant. Other than the occasional moment of overacting and a few indiscernible song lyrics here and there, nothing negative can be said about this production.
The story is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire and features the stories of two polar-opposite witches: the obnoxiously beautiful, popular Glinda (Jenn Gambatese) and her green-skinned, very outspoken roommate Elphaba (Alison Luff). The audience watches as the girls struggle between deciding what’s good and what’s wicked, all while transitioning from being enemies to friends. Eventually, the two develop into the characters we all remember from The Wizard of Oz: the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. By the time the curtain closes, the story has caught up with Dorothy and the ruby slippers, coming full circle to tell the “other” side of L. Frank Baum’s classic tale.
The beauty of this story is in the details. The music and lyrics by Stephan Shwartz engage and excite, while the intricate costumes are interesting without bgoing overboard. The stage is outlined with a large mechanical dragon that is used occasionally during the performance as a prop (mostly by the flying monkeys). Little by the little, the audience watches as the the two witches’ personalities are revealed, each scene leading closer to the roles made famous in MGM’s 1939 hit blockbuster. Every detail was brilliantly executed by the cast and crew, so much so that the standing ovation began before the curtain call did.
This is one of those (forgive my pun) magical stories that can be watched simply for entertainment or be interpreted much deeper for political fodder and insight into prejudice. Any way you choose to interpret it, watching it unfold is a spectacular experience.