The story that inspired all things Wicked strikes a sentimental chord with audiences, regardless of age. Who doesn’t have a soft spot for Dorothy, Toto, and her traveling trio of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion? But forget what you’ve read in L. Frank Baum’s classic book, or observed in countless viewings of the 1939 film version—Broadway’s emerald green hit Wicked is not The Wizard of Oz.
Poised to celebrate its 13th anniversary on Broadway this October 30th, Wicked begins with the supposition that good ultimately conquers evil. The ensuing plotline swerves to track a series of twisted events—tricky family situations, unlikely relationships, disturbing Oz-ian politics—until lines are blurred about what (and who) is really wicked.
From the moment the show begins, it’s clear we aren’t on the perky side of any Technicolor rainbow. Following the show’s opening moments when good witch Glinda floats to Earth and confirms the Wicked Witch of the West has been melted to death, “...the direct result of a bucket of water thrown by a female child,” we find ourselves in the ultimate prequel to our beloved Wizard of Oz.
Wicked steps back in time to explain how Elphaba—studious, green-skinned, and rebellious —became the Wicked Witch, and spoiled blonde Galinda (before she tweaked her name), transformed into Glinda the Good.
Carrie St. Louis plays Glinda, the soprano half of a complicated gal-pal relationship with her green roomie (Jennifer DiNoia, who recently graduated to the Broadway cast after playing Elphaba in seven different companies both here and abroad). A natural comedian and classically trained opera singer, St. Louis reveals Glinda to be less assured than her exterior belies.
Co-starring are Tony winner Judy Kaye as Madame Morrible and Peter Scolari (Girls, Bosom Buddies, Newhart) as the Wizard. Both of these Broadway veterans evince a volatile mix of humble and audacious. Embracing characters that are complicated, they glide between good and wicked throughout the show.
Adding to the drama of the personal transformations are fabulous special effects, striking staging by superstar director Joe Mantello, Stephen Schwartz’s mesmerizing score, and Winnie Holzman’s first-rate book.
Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked the novel, basing it on Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. His intention was to add to the story with an adult point of view, but grown-ups and children alike relate to Wicked the musical.
“Whenever there’s an insider reference to something Oz-related or to any of the familiar characters, there’s always an audience reaction,” says St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve been let in on a secret.”
She goes on to observe that it’s the changing bond between Galinda and Elphaba that’s the real crux of the show. “This is a show about relationships and friendship. What makes the two schoolmates different also makes them stronger together. What’s lacking in one complements the other,” she says. “It’s recognition of each one’s place in the world, a co-existence that couldn’t be more relevant than it is today.”
The two women convey that message at the end of the show with their emotional rendition of “For Good”—a song of living in harmony, and celebrating what’s different with acceptance.
St. Louis sums it up: “Each day is different because the world is different…and the audience is different. We see parents bringing their children and grandparents bringing their grandchildren. The words resonate. Everyone can find meaning in this show.”
Wicked is playing at the Gershwin Theatre, 222 W. 51st St. For tickets call 877-250-2929 or visit wickedthemusical.com.
Wicked invites the audience to experience the show’s sorcery firsthand with a dress-up photo booth offered pre- and post-show and during intermission. Saturday mornings, you can go “Behind the Emerald Curtain” (emeraldcurtain.com) for a 90-minute “sneakified peak behind scenes.”