Wicked, which sold out every performance of its three-week Memphis run in 2009, returns to the Orpheum on Wednesday, October 13th, and closes on Halloween night, October 31st. That schedule is especially appropriate for a musical extravaganza featuring a giant dragon, flying monkeys, talking animals, and a pair of feuding witches.
This spectacle-laden alternative history of Oz plays out less like a faithful adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s popular novel than as a prequel to MGM’s iconic film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. It tells the story of green-skinned Elphaba, who, in spite of her good intentions and an obsessive need to tell the truth, came to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West.
With its shadowy lighting effects and technical wizardry, Wicked is a visual treat. Glinda, Oz’s “good” witch, arrives on the scene in a bubble, and Elphaba soars 20-feet into the air while performing “Defying Gravity,” the show’s signature number. Somehow — perhaps by magic — none of the technological stunts overshadow Wicked’s political satire or its heartfelt story of sisterhood tested and triumphant.
The last time Wicked came to Memphis, it worked a bit of economic wizardry as well, bringing an estimated $7 million in spending to downtown. That could be good news for area businesses this month. Considering Wicked’s broad appeal — and the fact that tickets were so hard to come by the last time around — there’s no reason that miracle shouldn’t repeat itself. — Chris Davis