Wicked

Original Cast Recording

Decca Broadway Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/13/2004

Not living in New York City and being closer to the Wisconsin border than to Chicago's city limits, my theatre experiences are extremely limited. So it should be of no surprise that I've not seen Wicked, the latest Broadway smash (and, for star Idina Menzel, a Tony Award-winning experience) that tries to tell the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became evil.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I've got to admit, I sat on this soundtrack for months. I had zero -- let me rephrase that, zero -- interest in listening to it, having made it 33 years on this planet without seeing The Wizard Of Oz. (I will pause now for disgusted, unbelieving gasps from the readership.) But, part of the gig here is taking chances on discs you'd never pay money for at the store, so I finally dusted it off and gave it a shot.

I'm glad I did.

Wicked is a surprisingly modern-sounding musical score, seemingly taking the concept of a Disney soundtrack and swiftly telling the story (albeit without all of the plot development or even all the details) in the span of about an hour. Based on the Gregory Maguire novel of the same name, this soundtrack dares to paint a sympathetic picture of the Wicked Witch (officially named "Elphaba") and her relationship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Stephen Schwartz has crafted a set which, despite a few sagging moments, is rightfully poised to become a modern classic.

The pairing of Menzel (as Elphaba) and Kristin Chenoweth (as Glinda) works well, as both actresses' voices complement each other, almost to the point that they blend together as one. Were it not for the liner notes, I honestly would have had problems distinguishing one's lines from the other's - and that is not meant as a complaint. Schwartz wisely keeps the numbers performed by Menzel low-key. It would have been far too easy to create a musical setting akin to Margaret Hamilton-like cackling; instead, Schwartz crafts songs which paint the portrait of a young woman, a social outcast through no fault of her own, trying to succeed and be respected on her own terms.

Broadway staple Joel Grey makes two appearances on the soundtrack as the Wizard, but his role is wisely scaled back, as the focus of the story in Wicked has more to do with the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Decca Broadway Records, and is used for informational purposes only.