Need a break? Enjoy the Broadway musical Wicked in Tampa! This is not your childhood memory of Oz. Instead experience the Wonderful World of Oz from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a. Elphaba. She isn’t truly wicked. She is merely a misunderstood animal rights activist maligned by the government and press. She is green in more ways than one.
The musical explains the history of Oz from Elphaba’s birth to post-Dorothy. Wicked mostly focuses on Elphaba’s teenage years, but we also discover the origin of the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow as well as the flying Monkeys.
The book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire provides the basis for the musical production. Winnie Holzmann wrote the stage version. For those of you who have read or heard about the sex in the book, the theater production does not contain these scenes. Consider this particular stage production a PG version of the book.
On the surface, Wicked tells a story of youth, love, growing up, and making difficult choices. Below the surface the story has a political theme. It asks the audience to think about civil rights, prejudices, and the environment. Although the big question is – what differentiates a freedom fighter from an outlaw?
From the previous paragraphs, you might think the story a dull political diatribe, but it contains humor and music to lighten and entertain. Puns and wordplay make the audience laugh and cut the tension. Glinda’s self-centeredness, ditzy blonde character, and I-am-perfect routine provides comic relief from Elphaba’s seriousness and save-the-world attitude.
The strong point of the production is the music. Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics. Donna Vivino as Elphaba and Chandra Lee Schwartz as Glinda perform the music delightfully, hitting their solos and duets perfectly.
In addition to their political differences, Elphaba and Glinda share a common interest, Fiyero, played by Richard H. Blake. He waffles between Glinda’s beauty and goodness, and Elphaba’s desire to help others. He is the handsome, rich, and dashing leading man who has the girls swooning. He exhibits a persona of extreme shallowness, but his actions speak otherwise.
The antagonists in Wicked are the Wizard and Madame Morrible. Richard Kline plays the Wizard. He is a bit of a cad, on a mission to organize the Wonderful World of Oz. Randy Danson plays Madame Morrible, the ambitious teacher of sorcery to Glinda and Elphaba. The Wizard and Madame form a manipulative duo.
Wicked plays at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, in Tampa, Florida, through February 28th.