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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 19, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 42
'That's my life!'
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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'That's my life!'

Wicked is an allegory of being Gay in America

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

WICKED
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through November 17


The Tony Award-winning Wicked made a triumphant return to Seattle last week, the latest in a long list of Emerald City touring editions of the long-running Broadway musical. As the story of Oz 'before Dorothy and Toto blew in' unfolded at the beautifully restored Paramount Theatre, Seattle musical fans were salivating at the arrival of the campy, touching, over-the-top extravaganza that is Wicked.

Amazingly, the show opened on Broadway more than a decade ago after a very troubled start in San Francisco. Based on the award-winning novel that told the back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West (immortally portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in the 1939 MGM film) and Glinda the Good (Billie Burke at her iconic best). Those characters were, of course, originally created by L. Frank Baum in his novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz more than 100 years ago.

Wicked opened on Broadway to strong, but not glowing reviews. Composer Stephen Schwartz had had incredible early success with Godspell, Pippin, and, strangely, The Magic Show (which was exactly what its title suggested). Just out of college, he briefly became the undisputed king of Broadway musicals on the strength of those three consecutive hits. Then came years and years, which turned into decades, of artistic and theatrical flops. Seattle musical theater fans know this fallow period best through local stagings of his totally unnecessary musicalization of It's a Wonderful Life. A pint-sized Zuzu, singing her heart out over some flower petals, failed to turn the classic Jimmy Stewart film into another Annie.

Then came Wicked.

A CAREER REBORN
After a strong but not spectacular start in the city that never sleeps, something truly legendary happened. Box office sales went from strong to stronger to, incredibly, weeks and weeks, then months and months, then years and years, of total sell-out cheering crowds. 'Tween' girls in particular were spellbound by the tale of two strangers at a school for witches who hated each other at first sight, then bonded and became 'sisters.' One was green - a nice girl, shunned by her family and classmates, who became the Wicked Witch of the West. The other - blonde, perky, and ever-so-'Popular' (incidentally the best song in the overly long score) - was and remained Glinda the Good.

Bankrolled by affluent parents who virtually genuflected to a Broadway show that was family-friendly (no swearing, nudity, sex, or drugs), these girls embraced the two witches-in-training and ticket sales went through the roof. Saturday and Sunday matinees were sold out years in advance. Parents often bought 30 or 40 high-cost tickets years early in anticipation of 12th birthday parties, bat mitzvahs, and Sweet 16 outings. Composer Schwartz was king of the Broadway world once again.

New York's highly visible and incredibly influential Gay audience also embraced the show, the tale of an outcast who suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune - leading many to exclaim, 'That's my life!' If ever a mainstream Broadway musical could be termed an allegory for the LGBTQ experience, Wicked is that show.

THIS VERSION A MUST-SEE
The touring edition of Wicked is First Class, as only Broadway hits can be so capitalized, in every way. Impeccable casting, detailed replication of the award-winning Broadway sets, costumes, lighting, orchestrations, sound design, and the high-energy staging make this Seattle visitor a must-see for theater fans of all ages. SGN's three-person 'dream team' included one guest who had never seen a professional staging of a hit Broadway musical. The glitz and glitter factor alone made him a musical theater convert on the spot.

To be truthful, the actual script and score of Wicked rank as a highly derivative two-out-of-five on the Broadway Greatest Hits scale. But factor in five-out-of-five for staging, direction, casting, tech work, timing, impact, orchestration, musicianship, etc., and the show averages out at 4.9999. One word from SGN (and this scribe): Go!

While earlier touring editions often were completely sold out before opening night in Seattle, good seating for many performances was still available at SGN's print deadline. Wicked's opening night hosted a cheering, shouting, stomping, highly pleased crowd, but nowhere near a sellout. Check ticket availability by phone at 1-877-STG-4TIX or online at www.stgpresents.org.

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