Gregory Maguire probably had no idea the Broadway show adapted from his book, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” would play to more than 4 million people on Broadway and an additional 4 1/2 million on the national tour.
The prequel and the “other” story of “The Wizard of Oz” about the Wicked Witch continues to mesmerize audiences. “Wicked” runs at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Aug. 30.
From the moment the orchestra strikes up the first notes and the fire-breathing dragon - with the wingspan of a Cessna 172 - bellows as the curtain opens to the cast singing “No One Mourns the Wicked,” every eye in the audience is on center stage.
The beautiful Glinda the Good Witch (Katie Rose Clarke) floats down in a large bubble as she mesmerizes the citizens of Oz. But it’s her tale of her one-time friendship with Elphaba/the Wicked Witch of the West (Donna Vivino) and how they met that keeps them, and the audience, all begging to hear the rest of the story.
For those unaware of Maguire’s enchanting fable or who missed the 2006 San Diego production of “Wicked,” it’s a fantasy that goes beyond imagination. It’s where the most popular and somewhat ditzy girl in school befriends a green-skinned girl who is shunned by all. It’s where a misfortune causes one daughter to be ignored by her father and another to be caught in a freak accident. It’s a world where animals talk, leaders are not what they seem and power becomes a mere state of determination.
The book by Tony-nominated Winnie Holzman is the thread of “Wicked,” but it’s the production and cast that makes the show unforgettable. The scenic design by Eugene Lee, enhanced by lighting designer Kenneth Posner, are main characters of the show. The pieces of staging and backdrops moving about fill their own dazzling pieces of the puzzle. From Glinda’s gorgeous blue-sequined dress to the unforgettable attire of each of the citizens of Oz, Tony-winning costume designer Susan Hilferty captures the true character with each creation.
The first tunes of the entire cast and occasional ones sung by Clarke are somewhat garbled, but this is a Civic Theatre problem and not that of the actors, who are all in fine voice and do much justice to Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics.
Clarke has performed as Glinda in the North American tour of “Wicked” since November 2007, and her other credits include “Prayer for My Enemy” and “Anything Goes.” She does a wonderful job splitting her personality into an I-like-you-now, I-don’t-like-you-now friend to Elphaba.
Vivino’s voice is electrifying. Her rendition of “No Good Deed” ranks right up there with Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Let It Rain On My Parade.” She’s got the pipes because she’s been an Actors’ Equity member since she was an 8-year-old playing Young Cosette in the original Broadway cast of “Les Miserables.” Her other credits include “Saturday Night Fever,” “Hairspray” and “Fame Becomes Me.”
Embracing timeless social attitudes that address self-worth, jealousy and tolerance, all the elements of “Wicked” come together to spellbind the audience into realizing it ends too soon. And what’s not to like about a green-skinned girl who has more spunk than the Wizard of Oz?
- Now – Aug. 30
- San Diego Civic Theatre
- Third and B streets, downtown San Diego
- Tickets: (800) 982-2787 or