Before the pirates even began to set sail on their way to invade Tampa this month, another threatening group of characters had already docked their broomsticks in the center of downtown. Wicked, a musical that’s been running on Broadway for more than two and a half years, has finally made its way to Tampa, according to the show’s Web site.
Wicked is the story of two very famous witches during a not-so-famous period in their lives. Elphaba (Stephanie J. Block), the illegitimate daughter of a high official in the city of Oz, is an outcast from the start, as she is born a bright shade of green. Glinda (Kendra Kassebaum) is an aspiring witch whose “blonde moments” make her one of the most popular girls at her private school.
The two meet after being forced to room together, and their differences cause so much tension that Elphaba is driven to befriending her professor Dr. Dillamond (Timothy Britten Parker), a goat who can speak. Elphaba’s love for the animals of Oz drives her to using her innate magical powers for both good and for evil. This is in direct correlation with how Glinda uses her power of popularity for both good and evil, eventually helping Elphaba find her true love, Fiyero (Sebastian Arcelus). When a house drops on Elphaba’s sister in Munchkin Land, the two witches’ friendship is put to the test. The end result is a magical adventure that can barely be contained by the two and a half hour show.
The story is based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. The musical follows the original story about 75 percent of the time, but the endings to both are very different.
I was lucky enough to see the show at the Gershwin Theater in New York City this summer and knew that if it ever came to Tampa, I would have to take everyone I knew. So after waiting in line for six hours, using two cell phones to call the ticket phones lines and using two more people (at home) to continuously try to buy them online, I finally managed to get four tickets next to one another all for a bargain price of $300 and some change.
To say the show was well worth it is an understatement. The set is fully recreated, from an enormous mechanical dragon soaring above the crowd down to the numerous shoes owned by Glinda, the future Good Witch of the East. For a majority of the performance, everything that glitters is green in every shade imaginable, recreating the Emerald City better than in The Wizard of Oz.
The cast is dressed in elaborate costumes that force your eyes to jump all around the stage. The ensemble’s wardrobe stays consistent with the mood and theme of the scene, and everything from their hair to their shoes is perfectly in sync with each other. The director and staff chose to keep Elphaba’s wardrobe simple and bland using mostly dark colors, but contrasted it with Glinda’s bright, shimmering gowns.
During Elphaba’s solo “Defy Gravity” at the end of Act One, the already unconventional musical becomes larger than life as Elphaba soars above the stage in a cloud of black, leaving the audience begging for a quick intermission. Her voice alone could create a long-running love affair between this show and Broadway.
According to Wickedthemusical.com and tbpac.org, the show has 37 full-time cast members giving it their all six nights a week, with two shows on Saturdays and Sundays. The cast of this show is only one of the several traveling casts, but their performances are nothing short of their Broadway counterparts.
Between the comedic undertones and the operatic style, there was no time for boredom. The show indulges your eyes and ears with a vivid performance of lights and colors.
The show will be running until February 5 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.