A Wicked good time

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It’s an age old question: are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? This is the central theme to the stage adaptation of Wicked.

Based on the book of the same name, written by Gregory Maguire, Wicked gives us a look at the wonderful world of Oz and its residents before the now-familiar house dropped out of the sky. It is a deep look inside the personalities of some of our most beloved characters, and it tells us what really happened and why it happened.

The basic story follows the Wicked Witch, Elphaba, through her years as a young aspiring magician.

She and her sister, Nessarose, the Wicked Witch of the East, are found attending a special school where they meet a number of new folks, all a bit turned off by Elphaba’s disturbing green appearance – including, the Good Witch, then named Galinda.

We watch the students as they learn, interact to relationships, and discover some of their amazing powers. It is while attending Shiz when Elphaba and Galinda first meet, initially “loathing” one another, initially forced to be roommates and eventually become close friends. This is also where they both meet and fall for the dashing Fiyero.

Due to their achievements at school, both Elphaba and the Good Witch now known as Glinda are invited to visit the famous Emerald City to meet the Wizard personally. Elphaba is full of expectations, hoping to be able to secure a position working right alongside the Wizard.

Her expectations soon turn sour as she learns the Wizard himself is behind a plot to silence the animals of Oz, yet tricks her into giving his pet monkeys wings. Elphaba is outraged and storms out, keeping with her the great big book of spells, the Grimmerie, and escapes the city by “Defying Gravity” with a spell from the book. From there all chaos ensues.

Aside from a few special secrets you should know the rest of the basic story, and if you don’t, go pick up Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Wizard of Oz, and enjoy one wild ride.

The production itself is a completely magical experience. The show was presented at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre, here in San Francisco.

The theatre itself has been transformed, making you feel as if you actually have entered the Land of Oz. The sets are magnificent, elaborate scenes, giving the production even more life and personality. They combine immense structures, dark and esoteric colors and lighting, as well as the contrast of the bright, shining Emerald City, and topping it all off, the great big Dragon Clock looms over the heads of actors, orchestra, and audience with a vicious eminence.

The actors do an amazing job bringing these characters to life. The feelings and emotions expressed by each character and the actor’s wonderful performances really help the audience relate to each character.

We really begin to get to know them, their desires, their fears, and their purposes. The story focuses mostly on the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda, and their relationships with Fiyero. We are shown another side to these characters, trying to explain how they became the characters we all grew up with, giving them all more dimension and depth. You begin to sympathize with them, and actually rooting for the “Wicked Witch” to win. She is the star, and the story urges you to love her.

Above all this, the singing and the score are phenomenal. The score, by Stephen Shwartz and adapted for San Francisco by Christopher Jahnke, is one of the moodiest and dramatic I’ve ever heard in a musical, I even found myself almost “head-banging” during some songs.

Heavy percussion and driving rhythms make this a truly unique musical performance. The performance is driven forward with clever lyrics, belted out by amazingly talented singers, spanning a number of topics and themes, often causing you to either snicker or contemplate.

A few of the favored songs include; the shows central theme, “No one mourns the wicked”, as well as the emotional, “I’m not that girl,” “Defying gravity,” and “As long as you’re mine,” between Elphaba and Fiyero, as they have just escaped the Emerald City, hiding in the woods, and Elphaba finally claims her wickedness.

There’s also the more lighthearted “What is this feeling?,” where Elphaba and Galinda fume over their unfortunate rooming arrangements, summing it up with one word, loathing, “Dancing through life,” and “Popular.”

The story is one that will amaze, capture and entertain people of all ages. A beautiful look into the deep dark thoughts of the inner soul, Wicked really does begin to challenge our feelings about what is and who are wicked.

Combine that with a stunning cast, an elaborate set, and a moving musical score, and Wicked could easily be the best musical of all time.