Laurel Harris (left) and Kara Lindsay (right) prove that sometimes a back story is more valuable than the original in ‘Wicked.’ These are two highly entertaining witches you never want to see fly away.

Glitzy, Witty, and Triumphant

Let’s face the facts, sequels often tend to suck and prequels never seem to come close to matching the magic of a cherished story. Creators Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman take two steps back by borrowing the foundation of The Wizard of Oz and pull off the unthinkable in a musical of might and meaning.

The prolifically imaginative Wicked not only perfects the modern musical experience but, in doing so, may very well have broken the mold. Glitzy, witty, and triumphant, it’s just what the local theatre market needs this fall.

Winnie Holzman’s book is essentially a back story of the Wicked Witch of the West and Good Witch of the North by asking a series of ‘what if’ scenarios. What if they started out as friends? What if a flying house that landed on a woman with red shoes was no accident? One by one the character dots are connected until a spectacular portrait takes shape giving the Oz classic to a ravishing new level.

Leading ladies Laurel Harris and Kara Lindsay are top talent in their friend or foe dealings within this touching tale. Rivalry seldom looks as tasty as what these two performers accomplish.

While Harris’ beautifully tragic and deeply conflicted Elphaba journeys down a path she wishes she could avoid, her song ‘The Wizard and I’ reins as a musical pillar of hope. How quickly things change by the end of Act I when she sings ‘Defying Gravity’ as a scorned woman begins to take flight.

The tension is eased by Lindsay whose silver spooned Glinda scores big laughs due to her comical snootiness. The character has never seen a day when she didn’t get her way. When it comes time for her to sing the blissfully bouncy ‘Popular’, you’re left with the strong impression that life improvement measures are a must.

It’s pointless to over-analyze such an entertaining musical but let it be said there are a lot of ideas at play. It’s about friendship, it’s about taking a stand, and it’s about setting matters straight.

Whether you’ve been misunderstood, unfairly treated, or sadly found yourself an outsider, Wicked proves there is reward for relentless struggle.

Review by Steven Berketo

WICKED by Winnie Holzman Stephen Schwartz Sept. 3 – Nov 2. 2014 ED MIRVISH THEATRE 244 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON TICKETS $49.00 – $210.00 416-872-1212 www.mirvish.com

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