Oz Well That Ends Well

Wicked delivers on its promise

Oh, the goosebump-inducing musical numbers were great and all, but even better was witnessing the stuffy, overdressed (mink-stoles-in-August overdressed), elderly and probably predominantly Republican audience loudly praising the heroism and valor of the not-so-Wicked Witch of the West and giving a standing ovation to a musical with such glaringly blatant liberal undertones.

The latest in the trendy hit parade of Broadway musicals (see: The Producers, Spamalot), Wickedhas finally graced our county with its presence on its nationwide tour. I wasn't too surprised when I heard that the line for tickets spanned several city blocks. Or that there were people with lawn chairs outside the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Lawn chairs!

Based on the best-selling 1996 novel by Gregory Maguire, Wickedsatiates the inner—and not-so-secret—pangs of envy of the seemingly perfect, while leaving the sort of melty warmth you get when finishing a good book or walking out of the movie theater after a topnotch Disney animation. You know: the kind they made in the olden days.

Witchy-poo. Photo by Joan Marcus
Witchy-poo. Photo by Joan Marcus

The musical serves as sort of a behind-the-scenes, deconstructionist spin on the all-too-familiar story of The Wizard of Oz. It portrays the Wicked Witch of the West as a misunderstood radical fighting a supposedly utopian, oppressive system lying to its citizens. With tons of hint-hint-elbow-elbow types of jabs (Oz city officials constantly using nonexistent words in their speeches, for one thing, which was probably confusifying for some), Wickedwas so incredibly entertaining that those who should've been offended weren't and those who understood the musical as one big wink were just delighted.

Kendra Kasserbaum delivered a giggly, charming performance as the ditzy and always popular Glinda, reminiscent of the mannerisms of Molly Shannon's SNL "I love it, I love it, I love it" lady twinned with the kicks and moves of Cheri Oteri cheerleader sketches. And Julia Murney, as the snarky, witty Elphaba, was just as, if not more than, enjoyable as the original Broadway performance given by Idina Menzel.

So, hey, good luck getting tickets and feel free to bring the kids—but do leave the mink stole at home.

ORANGE COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, SEGERSTROM HALL, 600 TOWN CENTER DR., COSTA MESA, (714) 556-2787; WWW.OCPAC.ORG. THURS.-FRI., AUG. 17-18, 8 P.M.; SAT., 2 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 & 7:30 P.M. $28.50-$74.50.

 
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