Wicked is the story of two witches, Elphaba, the unfortunate girl with the green skin, and the blonde and perfect Glinda. They grow up together and become rivals for the attention of the handsome Fiyero. They also eventually differ in their stands towards the Wizard’s regime and policy of taking speech away from animals. Elphaba sides with the animals and is called the Wicked Witch of the West while Glinda the Good becomes known as the Good Witch of the North.
If all this sounds familiar it is because Wicked is a parallel story to the famous L. Frank Baum story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Wicked, the book, concerned the Wicked Witch of the West. Wicked, the musical has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz with a book by Winnie Holzman. When the musical opened on Broadway it was drubbed by the New York Times and received decidedly mixed notices, but went on to get ten Tony nominations, winning three, six Drama Desk Awards, and the Grammy. It opened in 2003 and to this day remains the top grossing show on Broadway on a regular basis. The show has spawned numerous international productions and two national tours. It remains the 14th longest-running Broadway show in history.
Los Angeles first encountered Wicked in 2005 when it broke box office records. It returned two years later for an extended run that lasted two years. Now Wicked is back, leaner but still a terrific crowd-pleaser. The cast is smaller as is the orchestra but that all goes to make the show seem even more intimate. As an audience member I found myself listening more carefully to those marvelous lyrics by Schwartz.
The cast is the all-around best I have seen and I have seen the show twice before. Katie Rose Clarke has a blast with Glinda and squeezes every possible laugh as well as exploiting the poignant moments in the script. Mamie Parris is a feisty Elphaba. Boy, can these women sing!
Mark Jacoby is the Wizard and does more with the role than I have seen before. The same can be said of Liz McCartney as Madame Morrible. Kyle Dean Massey is a revelation as Fiyero. Who knew Fiyero could dance? Stephanie Brown is an exceptional Nessarose. And it is nice to see Los Angeles native Kevin McMahon as part of this talented cast.
Wicked will play at the Pantages through Jan. 29.