Welcome back Wicked, a gorgeous musical last in Philadelphia three years ago. The current production, part of the Kimmel Center's Broadway series, is full of great songs by Stephen Schwartz sung with full-throated passion by a uniformly fine cast. Excellent understudy Laurel Harris stepped into the central role of Elphaba without missing a note or a beat on Thursday's opening night at the Academy of Music.
The book by Winnie Holzman is based on Gregory Maguire's best-selling novel of the same title, and imagines the plot of The Wizard of Oz from another perspective; Dorothy is just an unseen farm girl who stole a pair of shoes off a dead body, while the main characters are the Wicked Witch of the West (Harris, in the role usually played by Alison Luff) and Glinda (Jenn Gambatese), the Good Witch of the North, who travels in a bubble. The basic issue is not the easy opposition of good and evil, but the troubling realm of moral ambiguity we all inhabit, in Oz or not.