Wicked sure lives up to its name.
The smash Broadway musical opened at the Boston Opera House on Thursday night to the delight of Glee fans and revisionist historians everywhere. The famed Boston theater looked magical even before the music started, as a mechanical dragon loomed above the stage where a map of Oz hung.
Do you love bad girls? Well, you might not like this Wicked Witch named Elphaba, the hero of this musical and of Gregory Maguire's book on which it is based. Elphaba is tortured throughout her life by everyone for her repulsive green skin, despite her genuine kindness and droll sense of humor. She butts heads with everyone, including the daft, peppy Glinda, who insists that everyone pronounce her name "Ga-linda." The two become close, but the corrupt country of Oz ends up turning against Elphaba, whose good intentions end up almost always being taken the wrong way.
It's a riveting experience to see a story as iconic as The Wizard of Oz be told from a different perspective. Every plot point you think you knew about the original story is twisted and flipped on its head, from the tragic downfall of the Wicked Witch to the clever origins of Dorothy Gale's companions on the Yellow Brick Road (Glinda hilariously tells an off-screen Dorothy, "That's right, just take that one road the whole time").
Standby actress Laurel Harris put on a phenomenal performance as Elphaba, getting her Christ imagery on during the truly awesome Act 1 closer "Defying Gravity." Jenn Gambatese provided a worthy, sunshiny counterpart, especially on their argumentative duet "What is this Feeling?" and the other major Act 1 jam, "Popular." Kim Zimmer and John Davidson are a lot of fun as Madam Morrible and the Wizard, respectively, while Curt Hansen was a tad too High School Musical-y in his role as the dim-witted love interest Fiyero.
The shorter second act pales in comparison to the first both musically and narratively, as the various story pieces are retrofitted together to explain how everything became the way it is. But these machinations are so clever -- in fact much more creative than the recent Oz the Great and Powerful movie, which I thought was pretty good -- that you end up applauding instead of rolling your eyes. With eye-popping sets (especially in the resplendent Emerald City), great performances and a score that you'll annoy your coworkers by singing the next day, this Oz tale is Wicked good.
Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter @sweetestpete.
‘WICKED’ LOTTERY: A day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats is being held for Wicked, which is playing at the Boston Opera House through Sept. 15. Two and one-half hours prior to each performance, people can enter their names in a lottery drum at the box office and 30 minutes later, a limited number of orchestra seats will be available to those whose names are drawn. Two ticket limit per person; $25, cash only. Valid photo ID required when submitting entry form and purchasing tickets.