Fans of “The Wizard of Oz” are legion, but even those who pride themselves on knowing arcane facts about the famous story may have a difficult time figuring out who Elphaba, Galinda, Fiyero, Boq and Nessarose are.
The curiously named characters, who went by different names in the 1939 MGM film, were the brainchild of Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” The 1995 novel became the basis for the 2003 Tony Award-winning musical “Wicked.”
Currently the 12th longest-running musical in Broadway history, “Wicked” has played to near-capacity houses since its opening Oct. 30, 2003. Two national tours continue to do record-breaking business on the road. One returns to Oklahoma City this week.
“Wicked” opens Celebrity Attractions' 2013-14 Broadway season, a lineup that will also include “White Christmas,” “Chicago,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” and “Sister Act.” Featuring a score by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, “Wicked” will play three weeks of performances at the Civic Center Music Hall.
“Stephen Schwartz is very canny, and he persuaded me right at the outset that he understood the most important thing about the book was not the plot, it was the theme,” Maguire said about his novel in a 2007 interview with The Oklahoman. “That was completely how I felt.
“The theme is how we demonize our enemies and how we are scared of people because they are unfamiliar. We then whittle away their capacity for full humanity in order to justify our being suspicious of them. That's why I wrote the book in the first place.”
Each character in “Wicked” sets out on a journey of self-discovery, with good vs. evil playing an increasingly important role in the narrative's outcome. Playing Elphaba, the young girl ostracized because of her green skin, is Jennifer DiNoia.
“I grew up in a really diverse community so I was always used to being around every ethnicity,” DiNoia said. “The green makeup puts the icing on the cake for me because it's so clear that I'm different from everybody else.
“It takes about 25 minutes to get into makeup, and that's become kind of like my relaxation process before the show. It's cool how that adds the last bit of transformation for me. After the show, it only takes about seven minutes to get in and out of the shower, but I often discover there's still some green left in my hairline. As a result, I get a lot of stares from people in airports.”
Providing a marked visual contrast to Elphaba's appearance and introverted demeanor is the bubbly, blond Galinda. (You'll have to see the show to learn how she became Glinda). Hayley Podschun, a Broadway veteran who has appeared in “Chaplin,” “Anything Goes,” “Pal Joey” and “Hairspray,” plays the privileged Galinda.