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It's not easy being green: Broadway's 'Wicked' comes to Austin

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
Jan. 25, 2012 at 3 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2012 at 7:25 p.m.

Elphaba, left, played by Anne Brummel, and Glinda, played by Tiffany Haas, were friends before they became enemies. The national touring production of "Wicked" is swinging through Texas this season.

The first time I heard about "Wicked," a musical about how the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good became who they were when Dorothy met them, I smirked and rolled my eyes. Who would want that? Well, it turned out everybody. The Broadway musical became a smash hit, collecting scores of awards and raking in money at the box office.

You know how everything goes down in "The Wizard of Oz?" It turns out, like so many things, the story changes depending on who is telling it. The story of the Wicked Witch isn't as simple as an evil witch who was extinguished by water. There's a lot more to it.

Once upon a time, way back before she became the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba was just a smart fiery girl who was constantly misunderstood. She also had emerald green skin, and that was weird, even in the land of Oz. Meanwhile, Glinda the Good was not as nice as she seems to be back when she and Elphaba were roommates. She was pretty, popular, blonde and, you know, kind of mean. Of course, the two don't get along at first, but they eventually forge the bonds of an unlikely friendship.

Along the way, Elphaba becomes a powerful witch, and political forces in Oz put the two friends on opposite sides of the fight. Then Dorothy shows up from Kansas, and things get really interesting.

The show features catchy songs and a great heroine to root for. I've never had green skin - that I know of - but who hasn't felt like an outsider at some point in life? Watching Elphaba find her place and find faith and confidence in herself, even as she becomes known as "wicked," is a wonderful experience.

Also, the songs are really fun. Seriously. If you don't find yourself singing "Defying Gravity" at the top of your lungs after taking in this show, you might be made of tin (you know, like the actual Tin Man, who does make an appearance here). And that's only really cool when it happens in a musical.

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