Wicked the blockbuster musical has grossed 3.6 billion but not because its songs are memorable. Unlike those in the original Wizard of Oz, none of the 20 plus songs comes close to “Over the Rainbow.” The Civic Theatre is packed because Wicked feeds the Oz obsession. We can’t get enough of the story and its colorful characters, especially the green one with a broom stick.
It’s hard to resist. Wicked has the allure of dirty high school gossip and soap operas. We know the characters before the show begins, and they suck us into the underdog story, love triangle twist.
Chandra Lee Schwartz, a north county native, gives Glinda the young good witch hilarious valley girl inflection and comic physicality. She represents those popular cheerleader types we love to hate. OMG, like she’s so annoying and rides on a giant bubble.
Emma Hunton shines as Elphaba the misunderstood genius born emerald green. She defies rotten luck and gets even and the handsome guy. Her voice sounds similar to that of rocker Melissa Etheridge, but more silky. Flying monkeys, edgy sets, a giant smoke puffing dragon, and the steampunk ensemble all help to tell the Oz story BD, before Dorothy from Kansas.
The story shouldn’t take more than two hours to tell. Romantic sections and nods to animal cruelty don’t seem to fit the story and get in the way. Still, Tim Kazurinsky is a believable con man Wizard. Kim Zimmer is equally sinister as Madame Morrible. Jenny Florkowski spins a mean wheelchair as the manipulative sister Nessarose. We learn that her character is most important because of her shoes and socks. You’ll find yourself saying “ah- ha” a lot as every detail from the original story you never thought about before is revealed.
There may be more to the story, but you won’t get any clues from the funky and attractive Emerald City folks. Songs with more than two voices are garbled. Stephan Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics in a style that climbs to megaphone levels. Let’s call it song yelling. Acoustics in the Civic are no help. The sound is so over modulated that lyrics are inaudible, and the volume is an uncomfortable sonic assault. The last time I had my clock cleaned like that was The Who concert at Jack Murphy Stadium.
If you go, bring ear plugs. Take them out for superb duets and solos by Alphaba and Glinda who both sing “I’m Not That Girl” with emotion and impressive vocal range.
The unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good at the Civic Theatre through Dec. 7. www.broadwaysd.com