POSTED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2010:
Dark Side of Oz
Wicked has impressed audiences around the country, and for good reason
Getting Wicked. Elphaba, who has made good on her promise to use her power to fight the Wizard, has earned the moniker “the Wicked Witch of the West.” Her exploits, mostly done with good intentions, keep reaffirming the citizen’s — and, after a while, her own — belief that she is wicked.
There's a little show about a couple of witches that has taken the world by storm -- and Tulsa is no exception.
Last year, Wicked blew through town for a four-week engagement that saw multiple sell-out shows and had audiences begging for more. And Celebrity Attractions, the company responsible for bringing the mega musical to town, is giving it to them: another 11-day engagement that runs now through Nov. 28 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall, 110 E. 2nd St.
Written by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman and directed by Joe Mantello, the musical, which is based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, is a parallel of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The premise is well known: Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the land of Oz. One, born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular.
The musical opens with the citizens of Oz celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, confirms this and then reminisces about the circumstances of her first encounter with Elphaba Thropp.
It was at Shiz University that Glinda, then known as Galinda Upland, first met Elphaba, the green-skinned girl who also happens to be the daughter of the governor of Munchkinland.
The two girls immediately dislike each other. Elphaba is brooding and quick-witted; Galinda giddy and excitable. Elphaba also happens to be quite talented at magic, a trait that is exposed when she attempts to defend her sister, Nessarose. Her talent impresses the headmistress, or "headshiztress," Madame Morrible, who thinks Elpahaba may be of use in the land of Oz and promises to make an appointment with the Wizard.
However, something is amiss in the land of Oz. Dr. Dillamond, a goat and professor at the university, reveals to Elphaba that something is causing the animals to lose their power of speech.
Later, Dr. Dillamond, like all of the other animal professors before him, is taken away, and the new history professor arrives with a caged lion cub, the subject of an experiment set out to prove that caged animals will never learn to speak.
Elphaba, with the help of Fiyero Tiggular, a Winkie prince who has captured the hearts of both Galinda and Elphaba, sets the lion free.
It is at a party thrown by Fiyero that the two girls become friends, and Galinda vows to make Elphaba popular. Her efforts prove futile, though, when, at her meeting with the Wizard, Elphaba refuses to do the Wizard's dirty work and is essentially banished and declared a wicked witch by Madame Morrible.
Elphaba, who has made good on her promise to use her power to fight the Wizard, has earned the moniker "the Wicked Witch of the West." Her exploits, mostly done with good intentions, keep reaffirming the citizen's -- and, after a while, her own -- belief that she is wicked.
Vicki Noon plays Elphaba in the second national tour. When she first saw the show in Los Angeles, she told a friend she would have gladly swept the floors for Wicked just to be a part of the show.
"I loved the show so much," she said.
"As a vocalist, the first thing (that attracted her to the role of Elphaba) was that Elphaba immediately comes out and sings this big powerhouse song, 'The Wizard and I.' Sophie (from Mamma Mia; Noon was touring with the show when she saw Wicked) didn't really stretch me vocally. It was so exciting to hear someone singing to the brink of her voice."
After she finished her tour of Mamma Mia, Noon auditioned for Wicked.
"I didn't necessarily know what they were looking for; I just knew I could sing it," she said.
Without an agent, Noon made a call to the casting director and managed to get seen. She also managed to get cast in the ensemble and then as an understudy for Elphaba.
"The part about the ensemble I loved the most was just the people," Noon said. "I met some of my best friends out there. I tour with a lot of them now. That was a big draw for me when I was offered the second national tour."
And if vocals weren't an issue and she could choose to play either Galinda or Elphaba, Noon said she'd still choose the green witch.
"I love Galinda, but I think I'm more of an Elphaba," she said. "I can't even imagine putting on that pink dress and bouncing around and trying to sing 'Popular.' I'm team Elphaba.
"I like that she's sort of the voice for those who cannot speak. And she's so tenacious," she said. "She's kind of a protector. She has taken on the role of activist. I love that about her. I love that, every single show, to play Elphaba I have to push it to the limit."
And the fact that she gets to fly? That doesn't hurt, either.
"It's this neat feeling of sort of going over the audience, especially while singing these really strong vocals," Noon said. "It's kind of a very freeing moment. I can, for lack of a better term, fly."
And "Defying Gravity," the number that carries her high above the stage and over the audience, is her favorite number of the show, Noon said.
"It's the moment in the show where Elphaba kind of decides to go her own way, which she's sort of been fighting against her whole life. She finally decides to give into it," Noon said. "It's the moment she becomes a witch. She's like, OK, if this is what they make me out to be, then this is what I'm going to be. I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game."
Although Noon will tour with Wicked "as long as tickets sell," she has spent some time thinking about what might be next for her. But what that might be, she's still not sure.
"I'm in the middle of playing the role I wanted to play, the dream role," she said. "I would like to do new musical, to create a character, be in the rehearsal process of putting a show up, all of that. But when it comes to dynamite roles, I'm pretty lucky."
Joining Noon onstage for Wicked are Natalie Daradich as Galinda, Marilyn Caskey as Madame Morrible, David DeVries as Dr. Dillamond, Chris Peluso as Fiyero and Don Amendolia as the Wizard.
The show plays Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings at 7:30pm, Friday evenings at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm and Saturday evenings at 8pm. There will be a matinee performance on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 1:30pm and no performances on Thursday, Nov. 25. Ticket prices start at $30. They and other information are available at tulsapac.com.
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