Atlanta is in for a delicious treat this month as Broadway powerhouse ‘Wicked’ takes up residence at the venerable Fox Theatre from September 14 through October 9. It has been three long years since the production made its way through the ATL, and the taste of this musical will no doubt thrill legions of fans — new and old alike.
Wicked has bowled over audiences since its first staging at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre in June 2003. As of October of last year, it had played 3259 performances in all its various incarnations and had been seen by over two million people. It packed the ship for the West End in 2006 and has had numerous international productions sprout up in the years since. It currently has two touring companies madly crisscrossing North America in a feeble attempt to satiate the public’s unending demand to seemingly no avail. It is one of the hardest tickets to get on Broadway, routinely selling out months in advance while fetching big bucks on the aftermarket.
For those living under the theatre equivalent of a boulder, ‘Wicked’ is the clever retelling of the age old tale of the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ This time, we turn the clock back to before the days that Dorothy crashed the party and hone in on the relationship between Galinda (the Good Witch of the North) and Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West). Based off the Gregory MaGuire novel by the same name, the musical traces the lives of these two unlikely friends through sorcery school. The initial mutual revulsion slowly turns into respect and admiration as the two soften their hearts to the different life the other girl has led. We see their views on life molded and watch as their widely divergent paths slowly take shape. Pesky questions, left lying around in L.Frank Baum’s original classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ like “how does it make sense that the Wicked witch was killed by water,” are thankfully answered. Questions about how it feels to be green are mused upon in a way that would make Kermit proud.
At its core, ‘Wicked’ hinges on the premise that every story has two sides and nothing is quite as black and white as things may seem. ‘Wicked’ slowly dismantles the preconceived notions you were taught from dancing down the yellow brick road with Dorothy and constructs a deeper, more meaningful look at these two complex characters. The touring company is currently filling these roles with Dee Roscioli (Elphaba) and Amanda Jane Cooper (Galinda). Both actresses showed their amazing talents through fleshing out of these characters. Cooper found the right inflection of ‘Legally Blonde’ while Roscioli brings her sterling stage credits – Wicked Chicago, San Francisco not to mention the longest tenured Elphaba among stage actresses – to the fold. They certainly didn’t send the scrubs out on the road.
The Tony winning scenes and costumes really transformed the Fox into the mythical land of Oz, and the Stephen Schwartz score very nicely punctuated the story line. The Winnie Holzman book is packed with sharp wit and clever turn of phrase. While it falls short of the depth and insight provided in Maguire’s novel as adaptations are prone to do, it neatly boils down the essence of these characters and this story.
Needless to say, ‘Wicked’ didn’t disappoint. It may have garnered a mixed bag of reviews from the New York press on its original debut, but the world wide theatre audience has thrown these doubters under the bus. People love ‘Wicked’ and for good reason. This is a group of talented actors performing under lavish sets designs telling a story we all know and love painted in a different light. It may fall short of what the high browed Broadway crowd comes looking for, but those who plunk down their hard earned cash to be entertained will leave the theatre with a smile firmly affixed to their face.
Author: Mark Runyon