A musical that#039;s clearly not in Kansas anymore

by Beacon Staff • October 3, 2007

Among the many new musicals that have emerged over the recent years, few have delivered the powerful emotional punch that Wicked gives its audience. The association fans have with the famous witches from the film the play is based on, The Wizard of Oz, will be shattered; but this alternative telling is an alluring spectacle from start to finish.

Inspired by author Gregory Maguire's novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the famous Broadway musical has entertained thousands of spectators ever since its New York City premiere in October 2003.

Since then, the show has traveled all over the world, crushing box office records in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Detroit.

The craze has spread overseas as well, first in London and most recently in Tokyo. Future endeavors for the popular musical include a German-language performance in Stuttgart, Germany beginning Nov. 15, 2007. An Australian adaptation will premiere in Melbourne, Australia in July 2008.

Now playing in Boston at The Opera House, theater fans have a chance to witness the subversive other story of Oz for themselves.

Wicked is the story of a misunderstood green girl and a perky, pretentious blonde who become best friends. Elphaba Thropp and Glinda Upland, brilliantly played by Victoria Matlock and Christina DeCicco, meet as students at Shiz University.

While at first the two display obvious disgust for each other, the girls grow close and eventually become the infamous witches widely recognized from the classic film.

Insert the quintessential cute bad boy rebel, a love triangle and catchy pop melodies and there lies the secret to a spellbinding show.

The story evolves, as do the characters, giving the audience a fresh perspective on who Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West exactly were. As the musical's tagline says, "So Much Happened Before Dorothy Dropped In."

The definite highlight of the performance occurs right before the intermission during "Defying Gravity."

Powerful and riveting, Elphaba belts out this song unlike any of her previous numbers while soaring above the audience, literally doing what the title suggests. Though important to the story, the Wizard's "Wonderful" proves to be less than entertaining. Then again, it is difficult to outdo something as incredible as flying while impressing the audience with an unbelievable voice.

Wicked connects with many of today's stereotypes and identities in a way that some other productions may fall short. It is not just for young people who identify with Elphaba's quest for acceptance from the rest of the world.

The term "dumb blonde" is linked to Glinda and her ditzy, yet entertaining behavior. Even Fiyero, the rebellious Shiz boy who wants nothing more than to coast through life without responsibility, matures and rethinks his priorities.

By demonstrating what the world sees with these all-too-familiar labels Wicked has the ability to break down walls and demonstrate that the story can have an unlikely heroine, and that the Wicked Witch was not so evil after all.

Fascinating and uplifting, Wicked casts all the right spells while staying true to a story that encompasses more heart, courage and brains than many other productions.

The talented supporting cast includes P.J. Benjamin as the Wizard, Cliffton Hall as Fiyero, Deedee Magno Hall as Elphaba's younger sister Nessarose and Barbara Tirrell as Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Shiz University.

Aside from a phenomenal group of performers, part of what makes Wicked such a masterpiece are the elaborate costumes and set design, including a mechanical dragon that spans across the top of the stage and flaps its creaky wings. Appropriately glitzy and colorful, the costumes explode off the stage, transforming into a whole new modern world far from The Wizard of Oz.

Luckily for theater enthusiasts who are also thrifty students, The Opera House is offering a limited number of discounted tickets for patrons on performance days.

Up until Nov. 11, 2007 individuals can head down to The Opera House two hours before the show starts on that particular day and place their names in a lottery. Thirty minutes later names will be drawn and those winners will only have to pay $25 for their seats.

Each winner will receive two tickets, but in order to be eligible for this lottery hopefuls must submit their names in person.

Regular tickets are still available, but selling fast so those who want guaranteed seats should reserve their places soon.

Prices range from $35 to $90, while the very best seats are $132.50. Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations (including online at www.ticketmaster.com) or by phone at 617-931-2787.

Patrons can visit The Opera House at 539 Washington Street, Boston or The Colonial Theater on 106 Boylston Street to pick them up there as well.

Performance times vary based on the day. Between Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Sunday evenings, shows begin at 7:30p.m. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8:00p.m., while Saturday and Sunday matinee showings begin at 2p.m.