The Wonderful Witches Of Oz 

Wicked defies gravity at Morrison Center

Once upon a time, in a far away land called the 20th century, aspiring actresses dreamed of wearing Dorothy's ruby slippers and singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." But in the 21st century kingdom of musical comedy, it's all about painting your skin green and singing "Defying Gravity."

If you think you know the Wizard of Oz, think again--monkeys fly for a good reason, the Wizard isn't so wonderful and being green is pretty cool. Toto, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

A force of nature bigger than a Kansas twister hits Boise's Morrison Center Wednesday, May 4, through Sunday, May 11, blowing the curtain up on the 21st century's most successful musical to date. Wicked opened on Broadway in October 2003, and every performance since has been sold out. From London's West End to the Sydney Opera House, from Osaka, Japan, to Omaha, Neb., the musical has broken box office records across the globe. It's estimated that Wicked has been attended by more than 2 million patrons, many seeing the show more than once.

"Oh yeah," said Anne Brummel with a laugh. "I've met people who have seen it ... Are you ready for this? Seventy times. No joke."

"Absolutely," agreed Natalie Daradich. "People keep coming back, over and over. We're so lucky to have a fan base that is so passionate about this story."

Together, Brummel and Daradich play an odd couple--one blonde, one green. Individually, they're musical comedy stars of the highest order, each performing in what they consider to be their dream roles.

"Sometimes you forget that you're living your dream," said Daradich, who plays Glinda, the all-too-perfect good witch. If you can think of a stereotype, she fits: beautiful, blonde, tiara, magic wand.

"It's easy to see why she would get the guy to fall in love with her," said Daradich. "And get just about everything else."

But Wicked defies convention and, ultimately, Glinda doesn't get her way.

"She figures a lot of things out," said Daradich. "And she learns a lot from Elphaba."

You may think you know Elphaba as the Wicked Witch of the West, but there's much more to her back-story. Born of mysterious origins, Elphaba is brilliant and talented but quickly learns it's not easy being green. Glinda and Elphaba become unlikely college roommates and their journey begins.

"Audiences shouldn't expect the traditional Wizard of Oz," said Daradich (which rhymes with witch). "But they can expect to find out how everybody turned out the way they did in the Land of Oz. You learn why Elphaba became the wicked witch and why Glinda became the good witch. You learn all about the iconic characters like the Wizard, Scarecrow, Tin Man, even Dorothy, but with a different spin."

Brummel is a Broadway baby. Both of her parents sang and danced on the Great White Way--her mom was pregnant with her while performing in Annie. Her father sang and danced in seven Broadway shows, including Annie, Nine and Oklahoma. Though she appeared in a road production of Evita at the age of 10, Brummel said her parents didn't want her to be a child actor, and never let performing interfere with school.

"But eventually, they knew where I was heading," she said. "I performed in a lot of non-equity touring shows and children's theater. I definitely stood on each rung of the theatrical ladder to get where I am now."

Most of Brummel's career has been in national tours but she had one main goal: to get a role, any role, in Wicked.

"Oh my gosh, I probably auditioned for this show at least 12 times before I got a job," she said. "Finally, I was cast in the ensemble, and I've been with Wicked for three years."

Brummel has portrayed Elphaba for nearly a year now, receiving standing ovations coast to coast. She admits that one of her favorite moments of the show is just about everybody else's favorite moment: the blow-the-roof-off, show-stopping first act finale, "Defying Gravity." After singing a blistering anthem, Elphaba soars and consumes the proscenium. It's unlike any other theatrical experience.

"How do I fly?" asked Brummel. "I can't tell you that. Let's just say that it's quite magical."

Glinda does some impressive aeronautics of her own at the beginning of the show.

"Oh, you mean when I'm in my bubble floating down on the people of Oz," said Daradich. "It's pretty impressive. My beautiful sparkly gown is even named for the scene. I call it my blue bubble dress. And of course, I have my green dress, the yellow one, two different white outfits and my 'pink popular' dress."

There are easily 100 different costumes in Wicked. The production is so vast that when Wicked comes to town, up to 100 locals are hired to assist as dressers or stage crew.

But for all of its budget-busting stagecraft, Wicked is an intimate story of friendship that resonates particularly with young ladies.

"That's really what I love most about this show," said Daradich. "It's so wonderful that the story is about two strong women--not exactly your typical Broadway musical fare."

Brummel agreed.

"I have met some amazing girls and young ladies who have been inspired from our show," she said. "I think most girls really identify with one or both of us. I think there are so many people who feel outcast and don't really fit it. And in Wicked, they see someone who is a champion for them. It's a great story of friendship between two unlikely girls."

[ Video is no longer available. ]

The names in this story have been corrected.

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