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Review: ‘Wicked’ bewitches Columbus’ audiences

Mary Jane Mouangsavanh / For the Lantern

Mary Jane Mouangsavanh / For the Lantern

The Emerald City has made a detour in the Columbus and brought with it a lion, a determined fighter and an unnaturally green flair (Oh my!).

The enchanting story of the musical “Wicked” provides a preface to “The Wizard of Oz,” and it makes the Wicked Witch of the West seem like a noble heroine, and Dorothy, merely a girl who came in and gallivanted around Oz. Adapted from Gregory Maguire’s 1995 book “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” the premise of the 1939 film is challenged yet completed through the musical.

But instead of being a hastily attached side note to the blockbuster, “Wicked” contributes its own questions and moral ambiguities. The show explores the nature of evil and proposes perhaps that goodness and wickedness are closely related, friends even.

And so we find that Elphaba, the green, misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda, the blonde, popular Good Witch, actually developed a friendship in school. As we follow their relationship, we find that perhaps wickedness stems from misconceived good intentions.

Although we are many years from the days when Broadway’s Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth originated the role of Galinda in 2003, I was bewitched by Alison Luff’s and Jenn Gambatese’s performances in the Columbus showing. Gambatese, who plays Galinda, has a charming operatic-like soprano voice that hits notes of heavenly proportions while Luff, who plays Elphaba, belts a chills-inducing, emotional rendition of “Defying Gravity.”

Additionally, the show’s set has all the whimsy and color that is associated with the mystic of Oz, and the costumes look like that of a baroque Alexander McQueen collection.

The magic of the show, however, is in its ability to translate to all audiences of any age. The concept and scenery will delight the youngest of viewers, while the older can appreciate this wonderful prelude to L. Frank Baum’s masterpiece.

Although the Tony Award winning “Wicked” is almost a decade old and Thursday night marked my third viewing of the musical, the novelty of the show has yet to spoil.

“Wicked,” which is presented by Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Columbus, has a three-week engagement in Ohio Theatre. The show’s last appearance in 2010, according to the Columbus Association for Performing Arts’ website, “broke box office records for attendance and sales.”

“Wicked” will be running until June 23. Tickets start at $43.

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