Long before Dorothy and Toto traveled by tornado from their farm in Kansas along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to visit the grand and powerful Wizard of Oz, there were a trio of women, mere girls at the time, who were destined to become memorable as witches. If you peek behind the bushes next to that famous road of yellow bricks, you might see what happens before Dorothy and Toto drop in for a visit.
Welcome to “Wicked,” sailing into the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford for an extended stay Wednesday, August 24 to Sunday, September 11. Based on the book by Gregory Macquire, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and story by Winnie Holzman, “Wicked” has won 35 major awards, a Grammy and three Tonys.
Kermit the Frog and Shrek know what it’s like to be judged by the color of your skin, in this case green. Even if you’re emerald hued and beautiful, you will still be labeled different. To discover the misunderstood heroine of “Wicked,” the fiery and independent Elphaba who attends Shiz University and meets Glinda and, unlikely as it seems, they become f]best friends.
The “happily ever after” is not destined to triumph and here loyalties are tested and power becomes too tempting a prize. In a recent interview, Stephanie Brown who plays Nessarose, Elphaba’s younger sister, offered insights, As Nessa, “I am crippled, in a wheel chair, selfish and self-centered. I desire more out of life and I am embarrassed by having a sister who is green. Wanting desperately to be normal, I blame Elphaba for all my problems. As Nessarose, I become the governor of Munchkinland and use my magic powers to control my subjects. By turning to the dark side, I earn the title of Wicked Witch of the East and Dorothy’s home eventually falls on me, crushing me and only my famous silver slippers remain.”
Despite Nessarose’s less thansterling character, Stephanie Brown is thrilled to play her, complications, warts and all. Being unlovable and whiney is just fine for her. She realized her powers to perform when she was only a tyke of three on vacation at a California resort. On big band night, she snuck up to the lead singer, tugged on her coat, and proceeded to sing a rousing version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” By third grade her fate was sealed when she played Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.”
To date, Ms. Brown has been Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Hope in “Urinetown, The Musical,” Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” been one of the tribe in “Hair” and Edith in “Pirates of Penzance,” but with the role of Nessarose she is truly stretching her acting wings. She understands how in seeking love and being thwarted, Nessarose becomes evil and totally misunderstood. In falling in love with Bog, a munchkin, she abuses her powers and ends up destroying herself.
For tickets to “Wicked” ($33-89, $125-150), callthe Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, August 25 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Grab your magic broomstick and defy gravity at what Entertainment Weekly calls “the best musical of the decade.”