Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: AUGUST 14, 2009
She wasn’t always as evil as you might think. And maybe she didn’t wind up as melted as you recall. At least that’s what Gregory Maguire imagined in his best-selling novel, “Wicked,” which spawned the blockbuster mega-musical of the same name.
It was a two-week sellout when the national tour of “Wicked” last came to town in 2006. Now there are eight companies, and more than 20 million people worldwide have seen the show, which has raked in some 1.5 billion bucks. If you missed your opportunity last time, you’ve got the rest of the month to check out what all the green energy is all about.
And it is an exciting, ebullient show – with ultra-elaborate sets, outrageous costumes, imaginative dancing and fabulous singing. Not to mention a couple of memorable songs, which you certainly can’t say about every musical these days.
It’s all about the backstory of the Good and Wicked Witches of Oz. At Shiz University , Elphaba , who was born green, is an outcast, though she’s both brainy and magically gifted. Galinda , who later shortens her name to Glinda in some lame attempt at a political act, is pretty, popular, air-headed and totally self-involved. The antithetical duo inadvertently become mutually loathing roommates; from abject enmity, they gradually and reluctantly evolve into the best of friends. Along the way, they experience pain, loss, solidarity and betrayal. In its frothy, effervescent, musical theater way, “Wicked” is a compelling story of friendship and tolerance. But most of all, it’s a spectacle, and this production definitely delivers the goods.
There are a few dark turns in the story, though there seems to be a slight diminution of the Wizard’s nefarious deceptions. And the Free-the-Animals sub-plot never feels sufficiently developed. But the look is eye-popping and the voices are superb, even if the sound balance in the cavernous Civic Theatre isn’t. The lead actresses, Katie Rose Clarke and Donna Vivino , while sounding very much like Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel , who created the roles on Broadway, still manage to bring their own personality, spin and vocal dynamics to the mix. There’s even a local connection: two talented former San Diegans are in the cast.
Anyone, young or old, is bound to get caught up in extravaganza – what with the elaborate production values, the humor and malaprops and the sly, winking references to lines and characters from “The Wizard of Oz.” If you have a heart, a brain, and the courage of your musical theater convictions, you’ll follow the yellow brick road to get your “Wicked” fix.
“Wicked” runs through August 30 at the Civic Theatre downtown.
©2009 PAT LAUNER