Wicked (Sophie)


            “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre was directed by James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander on the night I had the pleasure of attending. This Broadway musical gives outsiders a little inside information, and tells the story The Wizard of Oz movie left out: the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba.

            Entering the theater I immediately noticed the elaborate set design that consumed the entirety of the front of the theatre. There were intricately covered areas, enveloped in vines and rope that stretched onto the vinyl curtains. A classically Hamlet balcony with a staircase and a modern twist took up left stage, with vines for clothing. Large rusty gears peaked in front left stage with the most imaginative (flying) monkeys I could have ever imagined prancing atop them. Skin tight red leather suits and what seemed to be thin metal pieces sticking from their capped heads, accentuated the freakishly endearing monkey facemasks.

            The mechanical dragon hovering above front row center suddenly came to life and thrashed violently as the music began. Then, entered a cast with the most beautifully modern renaissance costumes I have ever seen. The colors were almost overwhelming, but were nothing compared to the immaculate textures of the dresses and suits. But, all failed in comparison to the hairstyles. Florescent extensions, unreal green beehives, and hysterically misplaced ponytails were just the half of it. These costumes were an essential aspect of establishing the majestic world of Oz, and created the window in which we were peaking in on.

            The first scene began with Glinda (Kendra Kassebaum), the good witch, giving a speech to the town’s people to verify the rumors of The Wicked Witch of the West’s death by flying house. As she delicately comforted the citizens of Oz that the rumors were true, the questioning of another rumor arose. Glinda was confronted on the issue of weather her and the Wicked Witch had ever been friends. After she confirms the rumor with a passionate song, the audience applauds, the light dim, and an entirely new stage, time, and place appear.

            A high school materialized, and we soon began our friendship with Elphaba “The Wicked Witch of the West” played by Stephanie J. Block. A green girl with a long braid, glasses, and a conservative dress awkwardly walked across the stage. When the time came, she opened her mouth and graces us with a heavenly powerful voice. She sang “The Wizard and I”, and her pledge to assert herself and be studious in hopes of meeting The Wizard and asking him to de-green her, bellowed into the hearts of the folks in the upper levels. Block brought inconceivable passion to her character and conflicted emotion to the audience: a character one traditionally despises, strangely becomes a character one begins to love and sympathize with.

            As we transcended into the story, we learned the trial and tribulations young Elphaba has had to face to be accepted without losing sight of her morals. One of the most hilarious and entertaining scenes was one in which Glinda vows to make Elphaba popular. The song (fittingly) entitled “Popular” is acutely socially satirical depicting the obvious blonde popular girl making over the ugly outcast girl. As Glinda jumps up and down on her pink, frilly, quintessential girly bed, she endearingly insults Elphaba and glorifies herself. Kassebaum, who was never hasty on the giggles, brought the perfect concoction of arrogance, and ditzy to Glinda and establishes a character much different than the classically wise Good Witch. In addition, she has a breathtaking voice, making her character that much more “perfect”.  The chemistry these two shared on stage made their developing bond genuine to the audience, and increasingly emotional.

            I had the time of my life at the Gershwin Theatre that night. Wonderfully charismatic actors sang their hearts out to me and I got the inside scoop on the Wicked Witch of the West: a numinous, self esteem boosting story of strength, triumph, and love.



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