There’s a certain charm to retold fairy tales. Their new perspectives on quaint, often irrelevant stories provide us with a breath of fresh yet familiar air. But most of all, we’re curious: we want to know what others have seen in a story that has been so permanently chiseled in our minds.
Fortunately, Wicked, Gregory Maguire’s novel-turned-musical, doesn’t disappoint in arousing our curiosity about what truly happened before Dorothy dropped in.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why audiences from all over have flocked to see the Tony Award-winning Wicked, which has returned to the Orpheum Theater since its 2003 SF debut. It has certainly lived up to its hype and seems to contain something for everyone. Family friendliness? Check. An amazing soundtrack? Check. Romance? Comedy? Political satire? Oh, my, indeed.
After all, just stepping into the theatre gives the audience a feeling that they’ve already been whisked off to Oz (no tornado required!). Just a few minutes into the musical, though, and audiences can tell this isn’t the Oz they’ve always known. Elphaba (Angel Reda), a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West, is introduced as a misunderstood, outspoken, bright and verdant adolescent, alienated from society and, sadly, her family. Through her persistence and integrity, though, she later discovers the true wickedness (oh, the irony!) and corruption lurking beneath the glimmering green surface of Oz.
Wicked’s strong focus on the friendship of Elphaba and Glinda the Good (Kendra Kassebaum), though, detracts from their relationships among the other characters. Even Fiyero (Nicolas Dromard), Elphaba and Glinda’s love interest, seems to be forgotten in the witches’ outpouring of emotion.
Despite that, though, the superb vocal and acting talents of the actors make Wicked undeniably extraordinary. Though Kassebaum’s singing seems to be rather strained at times, her portrayal of the annoyingly pampered and popular Glinda is spot-on. And who can contest the brilliance of “Defying Gravity,” the musical number that concludes the first act, as Elphaba soars above the stage, bringing the hearts of the audience along for the ride?
At a superficial glance, Wicked may seem like an elaborate tale of friendship and intrigue set against the backdrop of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s story. However, even the most flippant of audiences must get the feeling that there’s something more going on below the surface. And, perhaps, that is exactly what Maguire was attempting to get across through his story.
Written by Sarah Li
Jan 12, 2010 at 10:11 PM