I remember when I was a little girl how absolutely mesmerized I was by "The Wizard of Oz." I loved everything about it, the music, the characters and Oz itself -- what a magical place! But the film itself left me with a number of unanswered questions, my imagination was racing with ideas. Many, many years later a friend introduced me to "Wicked," Gregory Maguire's enchanting tale of the witches of Oz, and I was instantly hooked. Finally I was getting the answers I wanted, just who were these bewitching women?
I was fortunate enough to a see a live production of "Wicked" last week. Again, I was instantly filled with the same overwhelming feeling of joy I experienced when I first saw the original film as a child. "Wicked" is truly a delight, from the fantastic musical numbers to the heartfelt story, it will leave you absolutely spellbound.
Playing at the Segerstrom Center of Performing Arts in Costa Mesa through Mar. 17, "Wicked" is a guaranteed blast for the entire family. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, the story begins long before Dorothy and Toto find themselves in Oz.
This engaging tale centers around two young women from different walks of life who find themselves in the most unusual of friendships. Elphaba is a smart, strong, young woman who was born with an unfortunate trait: green skin. Glinda is beautiful, the most popular girl in fact, and when they find themselves sharing a room at school, it is not long before the unlikely pair changes each other's lives forever.
Dee Roscioli does an inspiring job in the role of Elphaba, soon to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. She captures the turmoil and heartache of the misunderstood enchantress with extreme devotion and passion. Her strong vocals and awe-inspiring performance had the entire audience under her spell.
Cassie Okenka, who played Glinda the Good, also gave a hypnotizing performance. Her quirky musical numbers and dainty hair flips played well off of her stern and more serious counterpart. Her bubbly personality was the personification of charm, charisma and everything magical about Oz.
I was really impressed with the onstage chemistry between these two talented actresses. They share some incredibly emotional scenes on stage. Rosciolo and Okenka are quite the pair; their connection is both instant and powerful. Rarely does this happen so organically. I have always felt that chemistry can make or break a performance, and the friendship these two exhibited onstage was truly extraordinary.
The rest of the cast is splendid as well. Kim Zimmer plays a delightfully evil Madame Morrible, whose ability to control the weather brings Dorothy to OZ in the first place. Tom McGowan both thrills and frightens as the wizard, achieving a devious, and somewhat, mockery of the great and powerful Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Cliffton Hall is charming as Fiyero, the love interest of both of our leads. Demaree Hill does a fine job as Nessarose, playing Elphaba's invalid sister whose untimely death ultimately pushes her sister over the edge.
Directed by Joe Mantello, "Wicked" is brought to life before your eyes with stunning sets and backdrops. Subtle lighting goes a long way in this performance. The costumes are whimsical and elegant. Bravo to the creative team responsible for all of this lead by Eugene Lee. Susan Hilferty and Kenneth Posner.
And so this concludes my ode to "Wicked." The entire show is nothing short of bewitching. Well deserving of all the accolades it has received over the years, the charming story is definitely a must see.
Giving us a glimpse of what is behind the Emerald curtain into the world of the witches of Oz lends a newfound respect to the classic tale. Because in a land somewhere over the rainbow, magic abounds and the depths of our hope and imagination are truly "unlimited."
"Wicked" runs through Mar. 17 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. For tickets and information, call 714-556-2787 or visit SCFTA.org