Wicked brings suspenseful show to Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Joe Mantello's stage production of Wicked is a suspenseful story about appearances versus reality, and doing the right thing as opposed to what is popular. 

Based on Gregory Maguire's bestseller, to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the month of June.

Wicked is the untold story of the witches of Oz “long before Dorothy dropped in.”

Elphaba (Anne Brummel) and Glinda (Natalie Daradich) form an unlikely friendship on their journey to becoming the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good. Elphalba is gregarious, gifted, and green, while Glinda is pretty, petty, and popular. The two friends come to a collision course as they fall in love with the same man (Fiyero, played with easy charm by David Nathan Perlow) and find themselves on the opposite sides of a political struggle. 

At the show's opening, the elaborate set lit up with an enormous dragon that stretched the width of the stage, and Glinda the Good gliding down in an enormous silver bubble.

It's present day, the wicked witch has been melted (not a spoiler if you've seen the Wizard of Oz) and Glinda has some questions to answer.

The story then jumps back in time to how Glinda and Elphaba first met, before either was born, then slowly forward to present day: moving through schools, the Emerald City, the palace of the Wizard of Oz, and the hideaway where Elphalba organizes a rebellion against the corrupt government.

The stage design is breathtaking, with large mechanical props, flying monkeys dangling from wires, alternating indoor and outdoor sets of schools, dorms, parks, and dungeons. With flying monkeys, wizards and witchcraft, talking goats, the set recreates the universe from Maguire's book.

The animals are a key part of the Wicked drama: highly intelligent creatures, the animals in Oz are capable of speech and have no human masters or owners. Authorities, however, are working to robbing the animals of their speech capability and spreading the idea that animals are to be kept in cages.  

Brummel is convincing as Elphalba, defiantly defending the animals in Oz, even as her activities lead her to be ostracized as the "wicked" witch of the West. Daradich was excellent as Glinda, who struggles with her desire to support her friend yet also keep her social status and popularity. Audiences are kept on edge whether Glinda help her friend, or continue being "good" merely in the eyes of the public. 

Fans of the book may be disappointed to see that the musical often deviates from the original story. Some of the basic plot points remain in tact, but the political edge has disappeared, the characters are far more light-hearted. The relationships between the characters and their histories have been altered or mixed up, and wraps up with a crowd-pleasing ending -- Glinda and Elphalba are happily reunited, with Glinda becoming the new ruler of Oz. It's a big departure from the original story, which shows Elphalba's near-certain death at Dorothy's hands. 

It's a new story, but a good one just the same.

Wicked will run at Queen Elizabeth Theatre until June 26. For more, visit www.wickedthemusical.com


More in Film Reel

Film Review: The Gold Rush and The Wages of Fear

The Pacific Cinémathèque scores with a delightful Gold Rush/Wages of Fear double bill.

Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar among nominees for Academy Awards

Silent movie "The Artist" and "Hugo" dominate this year's Academy Award nomination list, but could Monsieur Lazhar surprise everyone and win?

Mom's the Word: Remixed, brings humorous, heartfelt story about motherhood

A mock birth, sleepless nights, diapers, husbands, hospitals, embarrassments, bad habits, periods, teens and sex: nothing was off limits and the audience ate it up.
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.