Something Wicked This Way Comes

Katrina Wilber

She’s an American icon, a bright green figure of evil incarnate. She haunts the dreams of children; her watery death at the hands of a farm girl still sends shivers down the spine.

But nobody ever took the time to figure out who she was, what her family was like or why she was so adamant about getting those ruby-red slippers.

Based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” is a Broadway sensation about the life of the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s the imagined story of Dorothy’s nemesis, from her birth to a minister and his flighty wife, through her years at sorcery school, to her untimely death.

In the musical version of the story, the Wicked Witch of the West becomes an almost human character. She’s got a name, a personality and emotions. She’s a smart character with a wicked sense of humor who becomes the victim of a fatal misunderstanding. She’s no longer a cruel and conniving witch; she’s a woman who needs the love and sympathy she never got as a child.

“Wicked” is humorous and serious, sad and cheerful, dark and chilling. It focuses on the relationship between Elphaba, the grass-green girl who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, and her college roommate Galinda, a beautiful and popular girl who later drops the first “a” from her name.

“Wicked” hit New York’s Gershwin Theatre starring Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda and Joel Grey as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

With music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz, “Wicked” took home three awards at the 2004 Tony Awards. Menzel won her first Tony for her portrayal of Elphaba, and the costume and set designers were also rewarded for their efforts.

The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards were first presented in 1947 to celebrate excellence in theatre work. The program became so famous that the ceremony moved to Radio City Music Hall in 1997.

The added attention of 10 Tony nominations and three wins have kept the cast and crew of “Wicked” busy. The show has played to packed houses since it opened, and with a success rate like that it’s only a matter of time until the Twin Cities sees a touring production come to town.

Schwartz’s score perfectly captures the feelings of the characters. Sometimes words are not enough to express an emotion; they would sound ridiculous. When music is added, the scene is taken to a whole new level of expression.

“Wicked” is a different look at the hopes and dreams of the old characters of L. Frank Baum’s novel and the new ones from Maguire’s tale.

Success is tough to get in the hard-knock life of a Broadway show, so let’s hope the musical does for Elphaba what the movie did for Dorothy.

It’s about time we heard the other side of the story anyway.