Richmond cares for the ‘Wicked’

Richmond cares for the ‘Wicked’

Rainbow Bracey

Assistant Spectrum Editor

The Landmark Theatre emitted an ominously green glow for the arrival of “Wicked.” Stephen Schwartz’ musical, inspired by Gregory Maguire’s novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” lays down the back story for Oz’ most magical mistresses.

Buzzing with anticipation, the full house settled in the three-tiered theatre, loomed over by an intricate map, acting as a curtain on the stage. The map of Oz, with locations Badlands and Muckinland hung underneath a mammoth-sized dragon perched menacingly above the set.

The music finally begins and as it crescendos, the map opens to reveal a fantastical town square full of residents crying in relief—the Wicked Witch of the West is dead.

“No one mourns the wicked,” the townspeople bellow en masse. Soon the revelers bask in the glow (and bubbles) of Glinda, played by Natalie Daradich.

As the townspeople speak of the Wicked Witch’s horrors, Glinda recalls a very different tale—one that begins with the birth of an unusual child. Elphaba (Anne Brummel) was destined for taunts and isolation because of her green hue. After years of disappointing her father, she is only allowed to attend school to take care of her wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose (Michelle London).

At school, a new world of wonder opens for Elphaba along with many challenges. She discovers her powers, which she is encouraged to pursue by an electrifying Madame Morrible (Marilyn Caskey). She sees a bright future for Elphaba perhaps with the Wizard; an idea that prompts Elphaba to longingly sing “The Wizard and I,” which demonstrates her great aspiration to ask the Wiz to finally be normal.

Adding to her strife, the most popular girl – a young and chirpier Glinda – is her roommate. The immediate disdain is evident in “What Is This Feeling” as Glinda and Elphaba discover their polarizing contempt for one other. The comedic moments are perfectly executed and tickled audience member’s funny bones. But out of this disaccord, a friendship slowly blooms as Glinda and Elphaba discover their similarities in the crowd-pleasing “Popular” and “I’m not That Girl.”

As the roommates’ lives intertwine, Fiyero (Chris Peluso) enters the scene as a handsome, rugged prince searching for adventure and a little mischief. Glinda must have him and initially she does. Then it happens. Fiyero and Elphaba click. The stage is set for everyone’s favorite love triangle. The good-natured Elphaba however, refuses to hurt her one true friend, showing an unexpected loyalty and unselfishness not typical of musicals of this nature.

When Elphaba is summoned to the Emerald City by the wizard, she naturally brings Glinda with her. The radiant Emerald City lives up to Elphaba’s dreams as it glows with a mosaic of bright green lights of every imaginable shade.

Elphaba’s dream is quickly slashed as she discovers the truth behind the Wizard. He is simply a opportunist who decided to rule. As the truth about the wizard becomes painfully clear, Elphaba must make a choice. She chooses to take her power and spend her life reviling the man behind the mask. At the close of act one, Elphaba has made her decision. “Defying Gravity” is a pivotal and striking end to the act as the witch now deemed wicked escapes the Wizard, leaving behind her only friend.

Act two opens with a different world for Elphaba and Glinda. Now with the labels that will forever stick, “wicked” and “good” witch, respectively. Elphaba tries to help anyone who will allow her, often times backfiring as “No Good Deed” explains. She is wanted by Emerald City guards and is desperately in love. Her strength and courage push through as her destiny becomes clear. As the two friends discover in “For Good” sometimes no matter how much you want to change something, you can not.

As the story unfolds, the role of good and wicked are solidified not by actions but by rumor and deformation. No stone is left unturned, no plot twist neglected. The lightening and stage direction were pristinely executed. The singing and dancing of the ensemble cast was without flaw and was a high point of the show. The perfectly disguised microphones added to the professionalism of the crew and technical staff. A nod must be given to technical supervisor Jake Bell for his ability to bring a large technical production to Richmond. Every inch of the stage was used and actors seemed extremely comfortable in their roles.

“Wicked” takes you through the back door of Oz through a view point that makes sure you’ll never view the “Wizard of Oz” in the same light again.

“Wicked” runs until March 28. Tickets are $40-$70. Landmark Theatre. 6 N. Laurel St. 646-4213. Raffle two hours prior to show for $25 orchestra seats.

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