It was a little hard to tell what a wild and delightfully twisted tale — loosely based on “The Wizard of Oz” — signified, in a staging of the musical “Wicked” at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
But for most audience members, it was enough to be along for the razzle-dazzle, special effects-enhanced ride, even on a broomstick, during Thursday's Celebrity Attractions version of the hit Broadway show.
The musical, directed by Joe Mantello, which has a book by Winnie Holzman, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, tells “the untold story of the witches of Oz,” based on a best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire.
Telling the story in flashback was the “good” witch Glinda, shortened from Galinda, played with the right “trying too hard to be liked” qualities by Hayley Podschun, although her high-pitched voice at times made her hard to hear.
Held aloft on a glitzy prop, Podschun as Glinda, got the ball rolling, joined by lavishly costumed citizens of Oz in a rousing version of “No One Mourns the Wicked,” at the beginning of Acts 1 and 2.
But it was her friendship of opposites with the green-skinned “bad” witch Elphaba, portrayed with at first low-key but steadily gathering power and panache, by Jennifer DiNoia, which fueled the high octane production.
Humorously disarming were Galinda's attempts to teach Elphaba how to be “Popular” in act one, while a late number in which they realize they have changed each others lives “For Good” was memorable and moving.
The same might be said of DiNoia's touching “I'm Not That Girl,” a song directed at Fiyero, the man they both love, which turns into her deeply felt love duet with him, “As Long As You're Mine,” in act two.
DiNoia reached her greatest literal and figurative heights, however, while she was “Defying Gravity,” brandishing her broom, in the nearly showstopping ode to personal empowerment which closed Act 1.
Playing Fiyero, with just enough macho self-contradiction, was David Nathan Perlow, who started out as slacker student “Dancing Through Life,” then alternated between trying to hunt down and rescue Elphaba.
Supporting roles were well filled by Walker Jones as The Wizard, “A Sentimental Man” hiding behind the robot machinery of his throne, and Kathy Fitzgerald as the imperious yet somehow lovable Madame Morrible.
John Hillner had some good moments in another supporting role as Dr. Dillamond, a goat-horned professor, who becomes a scapegoat, losing his job and his ability to speak as a human rather than an animal.
Jenny Fellner got across the poignant plight of Nessarose, Elphaba's wheelchair-bound sister, whose love turns to bitterness when she finds out that the munchkin Boq only pretended to love her to please Glinda.
The production also boasted amazing atmospheric and lighting effects, as well as often movable sets and props, such as giant clocks and gears — perhaps symbolic of the plot's many machinations.
Further helping to create a total fantasy atmosphere on stage were costumes that were just outlandish enough, sometimes looking vaguely Victorian, and sometimes looking almost devilish, in the case of the winged monkeys.
Backed by a live traveling orchestra, conducted by Valerie Gebert, plus nine local musicians, “Wicked” is highly recommended and shouldn't be missed during its run through Sept. 22.
— by John Brandenburg
• Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Sept. 22.
• Tickets: Start at $35.
• Information: Call (800) 869-1451 or (405) 297-2264, or go to www.