Sara Butler | Contributing Editor
Last month, Broadway San Diego brought “Wicked” to the stage — just in time for Halloween.
Broadway sensation “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” is a prelude to the classic film “Wizard of Oz” and offers a glimpse into the Land of Oz before Dorothy’s arrival.
Based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel, the story follows Elphaba (Jackie Burns) and Glinda (Kara Lindsay) — roommates at Shiz University who couldn’t be more opposite.
Elphaba is an outsider with green skin who is the top of her class. Clad in black clothing, she spends most of her time studying and taking care of her paraplegic sister Nessarose (Mili Diaz).
Glinda is a popular blonde, a bit of a ditz and a lover of pink. She focuses on socializing with friends and her new romantic relationship with Fiyeri (Jon Robert Hall), an attractive prince new to the school.
Initially, the two women butt heads at every opportunity. Yet through a series of events, they become unlikely friends. After Elphaba does a favor for her roommate, Glinda decides to give Elphaba a makeover, prompting the well-known number “Popular.” Lindsay’s high-energy performance was a hoot, filled with Glinda’s staples of winks, hair flips and ballerina leaps.
With the help of teacher and mentor Madame Morrible (Jody Gelb), the two begin practicing sorcery. They become allies that take on the story’s twists and turns together — from meeting the Wizard of Oz (Jason Graae) to running from a rioting town, fueled by rumors.
When dealing with these obstacles, one of the pinnacle moments was the performance of “Gravity,” an iconic song known by many, even if they haven’t seen the show. Burns’ rendition lived up to expectations and did the song justice, sending the audience into a roaring applause as the curtains fell on the first act.
Though the first half — closing with Burns’ emotional performance — was a tough act to follow, the production of the second half did not falter; it kept up the energy, emotion and awe until the final note.
Every actor presented an exemplary performance but Burns and Lindsay stole the show. In addition to their individual acting talent and impressive voices, the platonic chemistry between the women is genuine and believable. (Judging by the endearing hug the two actresses shared at curtain call, this connection was likely not an act.)
From the set design (Eugene Lee) to the costumes (Susan Hilferty), the visual side was also well-executed. Elements like the giant dragon atop of the stage to the Wizard’s “machine mask” were impressive without being gaudy. Similarly, the attire (including Elphaba’s cloak, Glinda’s gowns and the munchkins’ uniforms) matched each character’s personality and story arch without distracting from the overall plot.
Arguably the highlight of the night was the lighting (Kenneth Posner), which conveyed the ever-changing emotional shifts in the dramatic plot — especially in the final numbers.
“Wicked,” which opened on Oct. 31, runs through Nov. 25 at the Civic Theater, 1100 Third Ave. Production dates and times vary. For tickets or more information, visit bit.ly/WickedSD.
—Reach Sara Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.