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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

Because I knew you, I've been changed for good --- Elphaba and Glinda

Wicked opened on Broadway two years ago where it's still running. But until July 31st, you don't have to go East to see it, but just hop over to the Pantages as we did.

It's appropriate that the music for the prequel to one of the most beloved children's stories in American literature should be a rousing rock opera score whose rhythms, harmonies and vocal styles are kid-friendly. Gregory Maguire's complex novel is the source material and has been streamlined into the relationship of two teen-age girls by Winnie Holzman.

One hopes the enthusiastic audience gets more than the racial prejudice angle. Not only is Elphaba (whose name is derived from the initials of The Wizard of Oz''s author, L. Frank Baum) a beautiful but unique shade of green which sets her apart from everybody else, but she's living in a repressive society where the talking animals are treated literally like beasts, demeaned as befits an inferior species. Ruling this society by smoke and mirrors is the mysterious Wizard of Oz who admits to Elphaba and her roommate Glinda that he has no real power at all. It's all mind control.

Originating producer Marc Platt has also produced the two Legally Blonde movies and you'll see a decided resemblance between the blonde sorority girl/law student Reese Witherspoon plays in the movies and sorcery student Galinda, who shortens her name to Glinda and becomes reigning witch of Oz. Glinda, played here by Kendra Kassebaum, is a terminally perky blonde who grows up as the play goes on. Kassebaum hits her marks and makes traveling by bubble an entitlement statement. Elphaba, played by Stephanie J. Block, has no such arc but in Block's hands she's the strong determined presence called for by the script.

Supporting characters include the delicious Carol Kane who plays Madame Morrible, principal of the sorcery school, like Mrs. Astor, who created New York society's 400 because that was all her ballroom would hold; David Garrison, whose folksy demeanor echoes other world leaders we know; Prince Fiyero, the dashing love interest of both witches, portrayed with youthful poise and unaffected charisma by Derrick Williams; Jenna Leigh Green as Elphaba's crippled sister, Nessa Rose, whose misuse of power cripples her soul more than nature has crippled her body; Logan Lipton gives Boq, the Munchkin, a quirky vitality. Timothy Britten Parker is particularly touching as the goat professor, Dr. Dillamond. Much of the fun of the production is seeing how Maguire depicts the origins of Oz. Where did flying monkeys come from? How did the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion get that way? At almost three hours, the musical seems too long, though the second act is more moving than the first. Some of the musical numbers also seem unnecessarily protracted. But Wicked has succeeded in enhancing Maguire's vision of Oz and its denizens. If it's not an enchanting musical, it shows us how fertile the soil of Oz is.

Wicked -- Broadway Production.

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; book by Winnie Holzman, based on Gregory Maguire's novel
Director: Joe Mantello
Musical Staging: Wayne Cilento
Cast: Kendra Kassebaum (Glinda), Stephanie J. Block (Elphaba), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Chistery (David Garrison); Madame Morrible (Carol Kane); Jenna Leigh Green (Nessarose); Logan Lipton (Boq); Derrick Williams (Fiyero), Timothy Britten Parker (Dr. Dillamond); Paul Slade Smith (Elphaba's Father); Lori Holmes (Elphaba's Mother); Barbara Tirrell (Midwife)
Set Design: Eugene Lee
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Sound Design: Tony Meola
Wigs & Hair: Tom Watson
Special Effects: Chic Silber
Running Time: Two hours 45 minutes with one intermission
Running Dates: June 17-July 31, 2005
Where: The Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood 90028, Ph: (213) 365-3500.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on.June 23. <
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on

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