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Volume 71, Issue 48, Thursday, November 3, 2005

Life & Arts

'Wicked' reveals which witch is truly evil

Tony-winning musical reveals dark side of Oz and life before Dorothy, evil monkeys

By Zach Moore
The Daily Cougar

With Halloween still lingering in the air, there has never been a better time to check out Wicked, the new Tony award-winning musical by Stephen Schwartz. Though some reinventions of cultural icons can lead to disastrous, disrespectful cash-ins on the source material's popularity, Wicked is a welcomed success in its own right.

This retelling of The Wizard of Oz takes the premise that the Wicked Witch of the West was nothing of the kind and runs with it, revealing that Elphaba (her real name) was in fact a victim of a mass conspiracy orchestrated by the leaders of Oz.

In the musical Wicked, audiences are given an inside look at the story behind the witches of Oz, Elphaba (Stephanie J. Block, left) aka the Wicked Witch of the West; and Glinda (Kendra Kassebaum, right), the Good Witch of the North. The two started off as grade school roommates but ended up enemies.

Photo courtesy of The Marketing Group

Likewise, we are shown that Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, was not as pure-hearted as she and the rest of Oz would have us believe. Portraying her as ditzy, spoiled and superficial, she stands in stark contrast to Elphaba who is an intelligent, humble and deeply caring individual.

It is the unlikely friendship between the two that drives the story, from their early school days as roommates to their last moments together before Elphaba's final confrontation with Dorothy and her entourage.

Also thrown into the mix is the dashing young prince Fiyero, who serves as a romantic interest for both Elphaba and Glinda. Though he appears at first to be a no worries, easy-going stereotype, his character develops into quite the opposite.

Wicked also reveals surprising back stories and gives intriguing insights into several of the characters from L. Frank Baum--s original such as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard and even Elphaba's sister, Nessarose, otherwise known as the Wicked Witch of the East.

Have you ever wondered what exactly caused Dorothy-'e from, or how those disturbing flying monkeys came into being? Wicked will answer those questions and them some; it even explains Elphaba's emerald skin color (and no, it-'The music is exceptionally powerful and emotionally stirring, and as with any good musical is applicable to many circumstances of life outside the confines of the story, raising several reflective thoughts that stick with you long after the show has concluded.

If you are a fan of The Wizard of Oz in any capacity, this is a must-see show. That said, one of Wicked's strongest facets is that even if one is totally unfamiliar with the story of Oz, it is a compelling exploration of good and evil and society's perceptions of both.

Wicked will show at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St., until Nov. 13. For ticket information, call (713) 629-3700.

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