Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Elphaba and Glinda
(Click all pictures for larger view)
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"All things truly wicked start from an innocence."
~ Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
So begins the story of Elphaba, better known as The Wicked Witch of the West. This musical was large, grand and in the dramatic tradition of Phantom or Les Miserables; but with more humor thrown in. Ditzy, blonde, always-gets-her-way, popular witch meets naturally powerful, misunderstood, smart, thoughtful, misfit born with green skin. Of course they are destined to become fast friends in a quirky sort of way. Dorothy's house kills Elphaba's sister and the wizard is not only a powerless fraud; he is corrupt and loathsome. (Click "read more" below to continue with story and pictures)

While the musical is based on Gregory Maguire's book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, large blocks of the plot are left out and changed. Elphaba is pitiable in the first half of the book, but she becomes dark and unflinchingly evil in the second half. In the musical she is the wrongly accused protagonist trying to save her world of Oz from the evil, but beloved Wizard . The endings are completely different, with the book staying true to the original Frank Baum Oz story and her death. The musical finds her stealing away with her love (whom she had to turn into the scarecrow to save his life), leaving everyone, including her friend Glinda, believing she has been melted away by Dorothy.

This was a completely different type of production than The Producers. Wicked is massive in staging, lighting, costumes and the Gershwin seems to be a much larger theater. I was trying to remember if this was the theater where we saw Showboat eleven years ago. At any rate, Wicked appears to be entrenched here for several years to come. The lobby of the theater as well as the walls along the staircases and escalators are covered with Oz maps, large metal clocks and mechanical tin figures; green lights highlight different waiting areas and a large emerald green crystalline stone has been mounted with backlighting over the refreshment bar.

Wicked was two and a half hours of great fun and the audience gave cast and orchestra a rousing standing ovation. It was worth the subway ride in 98 degree heat to get there; but that is another story by itself.

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