June 23, 2005
The Broadway blockbuster by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, which tells the story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in, has been selling out in ticket presales on its national tour. So you might have better luck finding a pair of ruby slippers than a seat at the Pantages, where it flies in from now through July 31, starring Stephanie J. Block, Kendra Kassebaum and Carol Kane.
But this tale, with its Grammy Award-winning music, based on the book by Gregory Maguire, isn't your grandmother's "Wizard of Oz." (Judy Garland never used words like "swankified" or "disgusticified.") This show is all about Elphaba (a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (a.k.a. the Good Witch of the North) -- who used to be best friends.
But who was really "wicked" and who was really "good?"
"If you take a familiar story and you come at it from another point of view, the tension between the audience's preconception and the approach you're taking to the story adds an extra level of response," said composer-lyricist Schwartz, who explored similar territory with "The Prince of Egypt."
Although Schwartz said he never experienced the alienation Elphaba feels while he was growing up in New York City, the Oscar winner can relate, in part, to the idea of being different -- a central theme in "Wicked."
"I think it's possible that being a Jewish kid in a school and community that was overwhelmingly Christian -- although I never felt any overt prejudice or exclusion -- contributed to my sense of 'otherness,' which is certainly reflected in the central character of Elphaba," Schwartz told The Journal. "I think it may be a component of why I am often attracted to write about characters who feel themselves alienated or have difficulty fitting in with their societies."
As a popular stage success, "Wicked" is likely to be flying around years after other productions have gone back to Kansas.
For tickets to the near-sold-out run, you can participate in a day-of-performance lottery. Arrive two and a half hours prior to show at the Pantages Theatre box office, 6233 Hollywood Blvd. Names will be drawn 30 minutes later for 26 orchestra seats at $25 each, (cash only, limit of two tickets per person). For more information, visit www.wickedthemusicaltour.com.