An evening at the theatre with its marvelous splendor arouses a certain childlike curiosity in us all. Apart from the obvious social dimension which may include book-ending the affair with dinner and then drinks, we hope to be moved by its magnificence as we escape into its storyline. The eccentric costumes, elegant staging and a meticulously arranged musical score and script, together with a spectacular cast, are all painstakingly assembled to perfection under one roof. Our hopes and heightened expectations lie in the balance as the first curtain is drawn.
Captivating, enchanting and mesmerizing could only describe Thursday evening inside the charming Detroit Opera House. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, “Wicked”, The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, returned to Detroit in all of its spellbinding majesty. Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, this box office record-breaker was first introduced in the fall of 2003 at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Concurrently, the novel has sold 4 million copies, with 3.3 million of those sold since 2003 when the musical originally opened.
Presently in its 8th year on Broadway, the musical’s North American and international companies have collectively earned over $2.2 billion and have been witnessed by nearly 28 million theatre-goers worldwide. Since it began in March, 2005, house records have been broken in every single city in which it has played including Detroit. With a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in November, 2006, three Tony Awards and six Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the accolades for “Wicked” are endless.
Returning our memories back to the 1939 film version of “The Wizard of Oz” featuring Judy Garland, we were immediately introduced to Glinda the ‘Good Witch’, who elegantly floated down to the stage in a creatively designed bubble machine. She proceeded to tell the fascinating story of how she, a beautiful, ambitious and quite popular young woman is introduced in college to an intelligent, feisty and misunderstood emerald green-skinned outcast. Though they initially recoil from one another, they slowly become best of friends as well as roommates, and the story of Elphaba unfolds as she is unwillingly destined to become the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’.
By far the most fascinating aspect of this musical, aside from its brilliant production, was how a fable, told seven decades ago and forever chronicled in American film culture, could now be retold in such a fascinating new perspective than its predecessor. Cleverly rewritten, the musical teaches us how the original characters from the movie such as the cowardly lion, heartless tin man and dull-minded scarecrow were created. As well, contrary to our initial interpretations, the Wizard of Oz was not so wonderful but in fact corrupt and manipulating. Throughout the evening as well, our repulsive outlook of the ‘Wicked Witch’ turns to empathy and compassion as the audience helps champion her quest to bring justice back to Oz.
With 200 pounds of dry ice, 175,000 pounds of scenery and enough electrical wattage to power approximately twelve homes with each performance, “Wicked” is a stellar musical blockbuster and one to be rivaled alongside other Broadway epics. With shows intermittently running through December, this musical is ‘wickedly’ charming and is intended for both the young and the young at heart who may themselves imagine their perfect world ‘somewhere over the rainbow’!!