It's 'Wicked' baby!

A co-worker called me the jet-setter today. I guess you could call me that … Kates and I get back from vacation on Sunday. I take Monday off. Tuesday I’m back at work, but you think my vacation is over? Ha! …On Tuesday night we were in Chicago for a Second City performance, tonight we were back in Chicago, down in the splendor and ornate architecture of the Oriental Theater to see ‘Wicked.’ And tomorrow night we’ll be at yet another Brewers game…

I love it.

If you’re not familiar, ‘Wicked’ is like the prequel to ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ although this musical is told from the side of the witches. The audience follows, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (Who knew she had a real name?!) from the birth of her emerald green body to youth, during which she attends a Hogworts-like institution with her sister -- Nessarose, later known as the Wicked Witch of the East -- where she meets and becomes friends with none other than Glinda (the Good Witch who changes her name from ‘GA-linda’ because nobody can pronounce it correctly).

You can imagine the rest. The two best friends quarrel over the golden boy on campus and the popular and pretty Glinda wins him over -- all this as Elphaba also tries to save the animals from having their voices erased (Now you know where the cowardly lion and the flying monkeys came from). … But where the second act starts with Dorothy’s arrival in Oz, the show is cleverly drawn out so the audience never actually sees Dorothy. Instead many ‘Wicked’ scenes start or end where Dorothy was leaving or entering ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ including a scene that begins with Glinda standing at the edge of the yellow brick road, waving and shouting something like ‘Byyyyyyy-eeeeee! Yep, just follow that yellow sidewalk aaaaaalllllll the waaaaaaaayyyyy!’ She then turns toward the crowd and mutters, ‘Gee, I hope they find it. I’m not very good with directions.’ … The show also takes various lines from “The Wizard of Oz” for some good comic relief. (Nessarose: “What are you doing here!” … Elphaba: “There’s no place like home.”)

Soon enough we see the demise of the Wicked Witch and follow her to her death. (but does she die?)

Currently starring in the Chicago version is former Saturday Night Live star Ana Gasteyer. She was great, as could be expected. But Kate Reinders, who starred as Glinda, stole the show, playing her role as a bombshell, but far out blonde, resembling Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde or Kristin Chenoweth, the West Wing’ star who played Glinda in previous ’Wicked’ shows.

The music is pretty good. The scenery is amazing (heck, there’s a giant, mechanical flying monkey hanging over the first 10 rows of seats!. And it’s a Broadway show! …Overall: B+

SEE ALSO: another great review here

ADDED DEC. 19, 2005: From the Washington Post -- Season of The Witch: 'Wicked' Casts Quite a Spell

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