|Wicked On Broadway
In Broadway's long, illustrious history, only sixteen shows have enjoyed a longer run than the musical Wicked, currently in its seventh season. Adapted by Winnie Holzman from Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Wicked spins L.Frank Baum's timeless classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, only from a unique perspective: the Land of Oz's witches.
In the opening act, Oz is in a state of celebration at the demise of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North and longtime friend of Elphaba, reassures the citizenry and attempts to exonerate her late colleague's behavior. According to Glinda, Elphaba was the victim of circumstances due to an illicit liason between her mother and an evil stranger. Wicked then proceeds, through flashbacks, to tell the story of Glinda and Elphaba's relationship.
The pair's days at Shiz University, where they first met, are told both humorously and informatively as the audience learns of both girl's development, dreams and ambitions. There are foreshadowings sprinkled here and there of the familiar characters and scenarios from The Wizard of Oz, done wittily and with tongue-in-cheek, but never over the top. Dazzling sets and imaginative choreography combine to create a visual smorgasbord that, when combined with the snappy dialogue and deft timing of the cast, never disappoints or oversteps. Musical numbers are a nice blend of contemporary and classic styles, and mesh seamlessly with the action.
In the second act, how Elphaba comes to obtain the title of "Wicked Witch" is revealed, which helps to garner sympathy and understanding for future events. Her often unseen humanitarian good deeds are shown, and we learn how and why well-known "Oz" characters such as the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow are created. Dorothy has arrived in Oz by now, and familiar scenes are interspersed with "current events" as the young girl from Kansas and her three fellow travelers embark along the Yellow Brick Road. Because of miscommunication and perhaps destiny/fate, a revolt erupts against Elphaba by the citizens of Oz. A witch-hunt ensues, and along with flying monkeys, munchkins and talking vegetation, the climax at the castle inevitably occurs, with Dorothy and her bucket of water reducing Elphaba to a steaming puddle as Oz rejoices.
With more than 3,000 performances, Wicked regularly plays to capacity audiences, and has set records for both weekly and monthly gross on Broadway as well as London's stage. The touring productions of "Wicked" have also shattered attendance and financial records. Despite initial mixed reviews, audiences continue to flock to the show, and has proven its' popularity time and again. "Wicked" received 10 Tony nominations in 2004, winning for Best Costume and Best Scenic Design. Idina Menzel, as Elphaba, won for Best Actress. Other notable cast members have included Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey, Ben Vereen, Rue McClanahan and Carol Kane.
Broadway's Gershwin Theater, with seating capacity of 1,933, the largest of any Broadway venue, has hosted Wicked since its debut in 2003. The Gershwin's box office record is held by the production, with an eight-performance gross exceeding $2 million in early 2011. Originally named the Uris Theater at its 1972 opening, the venue was renamed in 1983 for legendary composer-lyricist brothers George and Ira Gershwin. The Gershwin has hosted such notable productions as Gigi, Sweeney Todd, Showboat, Annie, Riverdance and Singin' In the Rain as well as performances by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Barry Manilow.