The opening chord strikes, and flying monkeys swing down from the sky. In a rush of excitement, the stage is filled with Ozians celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West. The stage has been set for the magnificent musical tale of two very different girls, Galinda and Elphaba.
Galinda, played by Amanda Jane Cooper, is perky, popular, effervescent and not too bright; Elphaba, played by Jackie Burns, is a loner, opinionated, smart and -- green. Elphaba arrives at Shiz University on her first day of school with her disabled sister, Nessarose. It is here the audience sees that Elphaba is a misunderstood girl who often is discriminated against because of her skin tone. Her temper flares up on occasion, which causes her to do magical things. This quickly captures the attention of Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Shiz who teaches a sorcery seminar. Galinda teases Elphaba about her looks but manages to accidentally volunteer herself to be Elphaba's roommate. At first, they loathe each other but later become good friends, and Elphaba takes Galinda to Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz.
However, in Emerald City, Elphaba realizes that the wizard is a fraud and has been using his influence to stop all the talking animals in Oz from speaking. The wizard turns on Elphaba and tells everyone in Oz that she is the enemy -- the "wicked witch."
Galinda chooses to work with the wizard instead of going with her friend. The wizard proclaims her to be "Glinda the Good," a public figure whose job is to make others feel happy. The two must decide whether it is best to do the easy thing or the right thing for Oz and its people.
Throughout the musical, the bonds of friendship are formed, cut and tied stronger, and people change for good and for bad.
The whole cast is superb. Amanda Jane Cooper and Jackie Burns have incredible voices that are rich and powerful. They complement each other in every way, and are thrilling to watch in duets such as "What Is This Feeling?" and "For Good," as well as in solo numbers such as "Popular" for Cooper and "Defying Gravity" for Burns. Fiyero, Galinda and Elphaba's love interest (normally played by Colin Hanlon, but this night he was played by Corey Mach) is expertly presented as a shallow prince who learns how to think and act for himself.
Randy Danson executes the character of Madame Morrible perfectly, and Mark Jacoby plays the sentimental wizard wonderfully. Each cast member adds his or her own personality and vocal prowess to the parts.
The costumes show the journey each character makes throughout the musical. Galinda went from very pink and frilly to a more elegant look (though still very sparkly), and Elphaba went from a plain dress to the stereotypical "wicked witch" look -- black cape and pointy black hat.
The sets in "Wicked" are breathtaking. A giant dragon is above the stage, which is set like a giant clock. The props are spectacular, from Glinda's flying bubble to the Wizard of Oz's electrical contraptions.
The live pit orchestra is spellbinding. In addition to the Wicked Traveling Orchestra are nine local musicians that are playing in all the Wicked shows at Shea's Performing Arts Center. The balance between the cast and pit is perfect, and the beautiful music composed by Stephen Schwartz is perfectly executed.
"Wicked" is a must-see. This musical is amazing and so much more than I expected. "Wicked" will leave you singing and quoting the musical with its catchy dialogue and lyrics. It's magical.
Emily DeRoo is a sophomore at Williamsville North High School.
"Wicked" Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. Through May 22