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Wicked - Theatre Review

At the Civic Center Music Hall - June 6-17, 2007

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Wicked - Theatre Review
Promotional Photo © Celebrity Attractions
Forget everything you thought you knew about the land of Oz. As we learn in Wicked, the final show of the 2006-2007 Celebrity Attractions season, it was all a big lie...

A magically entertaining spin on what happened just before Dorothy showed up, the touring production of the award-winning Broadway smash Wicked is a fantastically fun musical for the entire family, a show you absolutely can't miss.

It's time for the whole story to be set straight.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Now much of what you know isn't a facade. Dorothy went to Oz by way of a terrible twister, traveled the golden streets outside of Munchkinland, met the man behind the curtain in the Emerald City and pitched a pail of H20 on a cackling, green witch. None of that is up for debate.

In fact, as the show begins the people of Oz celebrate the demise of the notorious and universally despised Wicked Witch of the West. The talented ensemble belts "No One Mourns the Wicked" as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, descends from above in her bubble to happily proclaim the world rid of evil.

But Glinda is thrown from her confident countenance when a citizen inquires, "Weren't you... her friend?"

The audience is then launched into the tale of what happened behind the scenes, the scandalous story behind the story that changes everything. Now I'm not going to divulge all the secrets, of course. That would take the fun out of it. I will say this much. The Wicked Witch... It turns out she's not really so wicked after all.

Yes, I know. It's difficult to believe. But this has all been a misunderstanding, a rush to judgment. We've simply followed along blindly, believing what we were told.

Merry Old Land of Oz

Promotional Poster © Celebrity Attractions
You see, the so-called "Wicked Witch" is actually just Elphaba, an oft-tormented girl with a somewhat emerald complexion. Born to the Governor of Munchkinland, the result of an adulterous encounter by his wife, Elphaba has endured the mocking of merciless schoolmates, resentment from her own father and second status to wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose. Yet she pushes through with a steel exterior and a dream of meeting Oz's mysterious Wizard.

She's not only without a wicked bone in her body, she's downright sympathetic. And in the deft hands of Victoria Matlock, Elphaba is quite an experience for the audience, the actress managing to capture the character's signature mannerisms and at the same time place them within the tortured shell of the ultimate underdog.

To add to Elphaba's misery, she is forced to room with Glinda, a bubbly blond that is Oz's vision of prom-queen perfection. The two are polar opposites, of course, and the show finds some of its most humorous moments playing them against each other.

As the perky and popular Glinda, Christina DeCicco is a real find. She captures an air-head arrogance that would perhaps, in lesser hands, play as a bit annoying. However, DeCicco gives Glinda a tenderness behind the hubris, an adorable charm that allows the audience to revel in her hilarity.

We're Off to the See the Wizard

It is DeCicco that provides the bulk of the laughs, particularly as Glinda and Elphaba become unlikely friends. In one moment that threatens to turn the show into the staged version of Clueless but luckily does not, DeCicco commits absolutely to the hyperactivity of teaching Elphaba the secret to becoming popular. Here's a hint: Much of it is in being able to give your hair a swift "toss-toss."

But something has to get in the way of that perfect friendship, and it's the handsome charm of rebellious young Fiyero. A claim is quickly staked by Glinda, but it's Elphaba that connects with him in a common crusade against a mysterious force trying to strip Ozian animals of the right to speak and live freely.

When Elphaba and Glinda, living their dream of finally meeting the Wizard of Oz, discover who's to blame for these terrible deeds, Elphaba's defiance causes her to be cast as a traitor. She has no other choice but to hop on a broom and escape.

In one of the show's best moments, Elphaba belts "Defying Gravity" as she casts a spell and rises high above the stage amidst a thin layer of smoke and light. It seems circumstances have caused the young woman to feel just a bit wicked after all...

Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!

Promotional Photo © Celebrity Attractions
The second act then becomes slightly more convoluted as the story attempts to weave together interesting back stories, conspiracies and surprises for many of the famous Oz characters leading up to the water-tossing climax.

Many will find the new revelations clever; others will undoubtedly pick at inconsistencies. And still other purists may even scoff at the notion of rewriting a classic tale. But regardless of which camp you may place yourself, the quality of the production is absolutely undeniable.

Framed in the moving inner gears of a background clock, the set is quite flexible, gliding seamlessly from location to location. The stage erupts in neon green upon arrival to the Emerald City, and various lighting effects are used to wonderfully capture everything from rainfall to the ruby tint of the famed slippers. And although I'm not quite sure exactly its purpose other than pure awe-inspiration, a gigantic dragon looms above the proscenium, occasionally illuminating red eyes and swinging its head.

The show hits technical peaks in such moments when Elphaba's natural power of sorcery "escapes" in a type of uncontrollable emotional outburst similar to Stephen King's Carrie. Nessarose's wheelchair twirls, paintings change in frenzied flashes and the actors shriek. It's only detriment is that it is perhaps disappointingly underutilized.

And all of this doesn't even mention the show's greatest strength.

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