If you thought you knew the whole story of The Wizard of Oz, you’re wrong.
Wicked, loosely based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, explores the origins of how Oz’s green villain became evil, as well as her unlikely but turbulent friendship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Before becoming a Broadway smash, the musical first ran as a trial run in San Francisco in 2003. It came back to the city last year for a run at the Orpheum Theater and will close tonight. I was part of a sold-out crowd on Saturday night to experience the musical for the first time.
After the Wicked Witch of the West melts in The Wizard of Oz, Glenda and the people of Oz celebrate the freedom from her evil. But then it is revealed that the good witch and the wicked witch were indeed friends, and so the story of Wicked begins through flashbacks. Elphaba (Marcie Dodd) is a green misfit at Shiz University, with only her wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose (Deedee Magno Hall) by her side. She is immediately a target for bullying by the pretty and popular Galinda Upland (Alli Mauzey), who by accident becomes her roommate. After a couple of unexpected bonding moments, Elphaba invites Galinda to visit the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Tom McGowan) with her, as Elphaba was advised by the headmistress of Shiz, Madame Morrible (Jody Gelb), that her powerful gifts would be of good use to Oz. However, upon realizing that she has been used to further corrupt Oz, Elphaba leaves Galinda (Who changes her name to Glenda in tribute of their professor’s constant mispronunciation) behind, and a few years pass as she becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. The two ladies’ friendship is further strained as Glenda’s sweetheart Fiyero (Cliffton Hall) confesses his love for Elphaba. As the show progresses, other secrets are revealed, including how the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow came about and guaranteed, you’ll never watch The Wizard of Oz the same way again.
Of course, the musical would be nothing without the music, and the music in Wicked is amongst the best of the best in any Broadway production. The act I finale “Defying Gravity” is epic as Elphaba soars on stage and in her vocals, and the sentimental Elphaba/Glinda duet “For Good” will serve as a tearjerker. Another favorite, “Dancing Through Life” is led by Fiyero and is accompanied by a stunning dance number. Everyone in the cast sounded flawless in their songs and on the acting scale, but the most outstanding award goes to Alli Mauzey, who portrayed Glenda with such exaggerated humor and improvisations, like a valley girl in Fairyland. The whole theater went crazy with laughter every time she was on stage. Additionally, the sets were a feast for the eyes — the ballroom, Emerald City and its green Christmas lights, the Wizard’s lair and its hidden fence for the flying monkeys — all were a part of the breathtaking production.
Beyond its intriguing backstory to the classic The Wizard of Oz story, Wicked is a touching and unforgettable tale of acceptance and friendship. Along with those emotional aspects, that fun and surprising prequel to a beloved and well-known tale, memorable characters and music, and fabulous visuals, it’s no wonder this musical has captivated audiences everywhere. San Francisco is now forever enchanted by its legacy. We’ll be looking forward to its return, but not before it spreads its magic to even more places.