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‘Wicked’ is deliciously so

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By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO—Wicked is back in town for another run and it is still rocking the house down because it’s just Pop-u-lar! The Tony Award Winning Broadway musical Wicked is back by popular demand at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego. Brought to us by Broadway/San Diego, it is expected to fill the house  through July 19th.

With music by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holtzman and based on the best selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire (you must read the book and his sequel Son of a Witch” the story of Wicked takes place before and up to the wonderful Wizard Of Oz characters in L. Frank Baum’s 1939 film emerge.

References in Wicked are made throughout as to how the two vaguely connect and anyone who has seen the screen version and fell in love with Dorothy, Kansas, the tornado, Aunt Em, Toto, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, The Lion and of course The Wizard will remember how Dorothy takes a tumble into the land of OZ after a tornado rips through Kansas. The rest, as they say, is history. Then there’s Maguire’s back-story to the story and Wicked is it!

Wicked previously came to San Diego in 2006 and 2009 (it opened on Broadway in 2003) and everyone I know can’t wait to see it again or for the first time ever. It’s clever, smart, and witty and fun all rolled into one. Schwartz’s tunes are sharp and catchy. Holtzman’s book is clear and memorable and overall it’s a show worthy of its popularity.

“Popular” sung by Glinda who teaches it to her roommate (more on that later) Elphaba is well, one of the more popular and ‘looked forward to’ numbers in the show. Alli Mauzey is as cute as a button as Glinda and just as funny with a voice to match her acting skills. Nichole Parker has all the right moves and then some to be a knock out here as Elphaba.

The two main characters around which the story revolves are Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda The Good Witch of the North. The two form an unholy alliance when they are thrown together in college, as in Shiz University, as roommates. Elphaba was supposed to be rooming with her sister Nessarose (Emily Ferranti) who has yet to become the Wicked Witch of the East, and is wheelchair bound, but instead is assigned to be Glinda’s roommate while Nessarose stays with the Headmistress. More of her later.

The girls’ behaviors and their personalities both as roommates and as women are as diametrically opposed to each other as night is to day. Elphaba is green, (an accident of birth explained later in the story), discriminated against, smart, not overly friendly with the ‘frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ attitude about what folks think.  Glinda (she used to be Galinda) is beautiful, popular; a tad bit in love with herself and usually gets anything and anyone she wants. She eventually befriends Elphaba and tries to teach her the ins and outs of being popular. (“Popular”)

Over time we get to learn the story of the why of their friendship and how they got from being roommates to friends to adversaries to both loving the handsome Fiyero (the good looking Andy Kelso) to their visit to Emerald City and their fateful meeting with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (P.J. Benjamin). It is here they meet an Ozian Official (Kevin McMahon once was a Plaid in Forever Plaid at the Theatre in Old Town many moons ago) who has a secret, which is later revealed. It is also at this meeting that Elphaba gets to use her magical powers.

Madame Morrible (Liz McCartney is quite a kick) is the headmistress in the school. She sets up the meeting between the Wizard and Elphaba. She’s also the one who declares Elphaba a ‘Wicked Witch’, someone who is not to be trusted when Elphaba refuses to do the Wizard’s dirty work. This is the first time we see Elphaba fly on her broomstick as she tries to escape from the Wizard, Madame Morrible and Emerald City. (“Defying Gravity”)

Maguire’s back story is fascinating and engrossing, eventually bringing in all the elements of Oz, the munchkins and characters from Baum’s original novel together, while being original and novel on its own accord as it comes full circle. Secrets are exposed, threats and promises made, power is transferred to the most unlikely of characters until finally Glinda the Good (as she now wants to be called) promises the citizens of Oz reform. Elphaba and Fiyero secretly escape from Oz and Dorothy, ah yes there is Dorothy, well…

Susan Hilferty’s costumes lend to the colorful images and pageantry. With huge clockwork turning gears (Eugene Lee) towering over the players and in the background, equally scary-looking green neon lighting up both the dragon hanging from above the stage and Wizard figures (Kenneth Posner), we are taken into the Land of Oz and on a fantastically thrilling journey as the magical story of Wicked begins.

It’s wonderfully wicked and I love it!

One can’t help but being intrigued with Wicked. Between the Schwartz/Holtzman lyrics and book, this New York ‘blockbuster’, Tony and Grammy award winner is, in the minds of many, ‘the best show they have  ever seen’. This current touring show is packed with talent, colorful characters and big production numbers, twists and turns and surprises and good fun for the family. It runs two plus hours so if your munchkins have short attention spans, be prepared.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through July 19th

Organization: Broadway /San Diego

Phone: 888-937-8995

Production Type: Musical

Where: Third Avenue and B Street, Downtown

Ticket Prices: start at $35.00

Web: broadwaysd.com

Venue: San Diego Civic Theatre

*
Davis is a San Diego-based theatre critic. She may be contacted at [email protected]

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