January 9, 2009

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Life before ‘Wicked,’ a review

I admit, I was skeptical of “Wicked.” The hype was more than I could handle, and I wasn’t familiar with the story of the popular Broadway musical, which was based on Gregory Maguire’s book “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” But after attending Thursday night’s show, I’m a “Wicked” convert. I get it now.

The charming story follows the early lives of Glinda (the Good Witch, played by Katie Rose Clarke) and Elphaba (the Wicked Witch, played by Donna Vivino) before Dorothy came to town. The two girls were actually roommates at a boarding school in Oz. Elphaba wasn’t always wicked, just a little misunderstood. Let’s just say, living life with green skin most likely disqualifies you from running in the “popular” circles. Glinda is everything Elphaba isn’t — blonde, girly, popular and not so bright. When Elphaba is summoned to meet the wizard because of her unique sorcery talents, she jumps at the chance and brings along Glinda to the Emerald City. When she discovers the man behind the curtain is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and that he wants to use her powers to cast evil spells, she flees. Meanwhile, Glinda is cast as Oz’s savior and the wizard tells the townspeople that there’s an evil witch among them who must be brought down.

Clarke and Vivino seem so natural and comfortable in their roles — Glinda as the perky cheerleader type, Elphaba as the loner outcast — and the special effects were worth the ticket price alone. The PNC Broadway Across America show is here through Feb. 1. Fly, don’t walk, to the box office now before it’s too late.