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Those B(w)itches gotta go: a truly “WICKED!” review

1:04 PM PST on December 13, 2007

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WICKED! @ The Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood ~ Through May 8 ~ General: $35.00-$98.00. Premium seating: $177.50-$201.50. Lottery: $25.00 cash.

WARNING: This review is a major spoiler.

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In 1958 Hollywood made a film version of the Broadway hit show "Bell, Book and Candle." In the screen adaptation, the stunning Kim Novak plays Gillian, the owner of an unconventional art gallery specializing in African art. By day, Gillian moves about her possessions sensing the protection of the spirits who once inhabited her haunting collection of African masks.

By night, Gillian lounges at the local jazz club wearing tight fitting black and red gowns. In full frontal view, Gillian's outfits look deceivingly proper until Gillian, in true catwalk fashion, gently wiggles and a plunging decollete exposes Novak's bare and famously gorgeous back. Gillian doesn't leave the club with a jazz player in tow even if Kim Novak, in real life, would soon be Sammy Davis Jr.'s lover. When the famous couple contemplated tying the interracial knot a year later, their friends congratulated them on their upcoming marriage and expressed their condolences for their soon-to-be dead careers. Kim and Sammy's relationship quickly turned to dust.

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and can he marry a gorgeous White movie star?

In 1950's Hollywood, such a single-minded gal and erotic affirmation of life as Gillian can't really be a woman... of course not... soon we discover that Gillian is really a witch!

Enters the most sexually unthreatening male actor who ever lived:

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James Stewart as Sheperd Henderson... Would you be looking at the cat?

Under the Good Sheperd's influence, our favorite bohemian renounces witchcraft (i.e. her love of all things "negro") and embraces Stewart as her Lord and Savior. Reborn a dutiful wife, Gillian can now feel love; she can even cry and she wears buttoned-up cream colored dresses. What happens to the hippest gallery in town?

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Gillian in her remodeled gallery featuring baby pink and blue sea-shell arrangements.

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Good women don't have primitive animal urges... only witches do!

Thank the Liberation Gods that I'm a female living in 2007... and it's the year of another Broadway hit show with a very alluring title. Fellow Taco writer Hadley and I were psyched to see the show for free, the occasion being a field trip for middle-school kids enrolled in Inside Out Community Arts' after-school program which we both teach.

Penned by Winnie Holzman with songs and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, "WICKED!" is the stage adaptation of Gregory Maguire's 1995 best-seller. In his book, Maguire tackles the "second most-evil character (after Hitler) in our collective American subconscious: the Wicked Witch of the West." Borrowing the story and characters made famous by the legendary 1939 screen adaption of L. Frank Baum' s "The Wizard of Oz,""WICKED!" the book is an examination into "the true nature of evil."

The Broadway adaptation begins when Galinda (The Good Witch of the North,) meets Elfeba (The Wicked Witch of the West) in Witch School. Galinda is a rich and snobbish brat who wears vibrant and sexy outfits...

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and loves to have fun:

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all kinds of fun...

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On the opposite end of the girl power spectrum, Elfeba aka Elfie makes an instant indelible impression on those around her because she doesn't give a rat's ass what people think of her colored skin.

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Elfie kicks ass and has the boots to prove it!

Both young women fall in love with Fyero, a hunk who just wants to have fun. Fyero first falls consenting victim to Galinda's pelvic pull but ultimately learns the meaning of true love with Elfie. Indeed, Oz is not such a free-loving country. Animals have the ability to speak until The Wizard decides to take away their rights to free speech and imprisons them. Elfie is the only soul brave enough to denounce the Wizard's actions. As Oz' Most Wanted, she's forced into hiding. Elfie's strong sense-of-self awakens the hero in Fyero. Confronted with Fyero's unbridled passion, Elfie feels wicked!

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Fyero knows about the C-spot.

Just when she's about to get some inhinibited chin on chin action, her sister NessaRose, the Wicked Witch of the East, is murdered!!!!

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Artwork by Ryan Gray.

My favorite character in the Broadway musical, NessaRose, is a manipulative and unapologetic bitch who uses her paraplegism to play a guilt trip on her sister Elfie; and would rather see Boq, the munchkin she loves, miserable and imprisoned for the rest of his life than with another woman. Nessa Rose is the only character in "WICKED!" who gets the death sentence.

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Nessa Rose... too real for "Wicked!", the Bwitch gotta go!

The Wizard of Oz, on the other hand, is a tyrant who lies to his people, puts innocent animals in cages, silences them and uses them as scapegoats. For his truly wicked ways, in a show of unaccountability worthy of the current Bush administration, the Wizard is sent away in exile where it's safe to assume he will be free to imprison and oppress again if he wishes so.

Elfeba becomes the Wicked Witch in the minds of the people of Oz only because of The Wizard's evil propaganda meant to distract his people from his twisted politics. Reviled by all, Elfie turns reclusive and bitter even though she's truly a knight in green armor who inspires Fyero and Galinda to reach up for their higher shelves. Long live Elfeba! Under the influence of Elfie's integrity, fun-loving Glinda decides to be "good." Her dresses suddenly lose their vibrant hues and become longer...

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What happens to free-spirited brave uncorruptable freedom fighter Elfie? She renounces her witch power...

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Too powerful for Broadway... or is it Disney?

... to elope with Fyero, whose metamorphosis from stud to tolerant man who doesn't mind the color of Elfie's skin, literally turns him into a scarecrow i.e. the second (after James Stewart) most-sexually unthreatening male in our collective American subconscious

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At this point in the play, I'm truly mortified and wish I could apologize to all the little women from LAUSD sitting all around me for the show's sexual and gender politics that take us back 50 years. Thankfully the 13-year old sitting by my side is sound asleep. Good, because it gets worse. Glinda, who had men drooling at the thought of sucking on her candy-colored self, is now traveling in a bubble of respectability, wearing a very very long dress. The days of Glinda getting her bubble burst are over.

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Channeling born-again Gillian: is that a sea-shell arrangement in Glinda's hand?

In my fantasy, with a title like "Wicked!", the show had My Master Bob Fosse's eroti-choreography spread-eagled all over it.

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The Wizard, Glinda and Elfie as I envisioned them.

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Fosse collaborator Ann Reinking is one of my top choices for Glinda, advocate for human rights and silver high heels for all! Her mighty kicks will prevent any bubble from keeping her in her place.

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My other top choice for the Good Witch is Jennifer Hudson for powerful chops that will shatter Broadways' colored glass: Good Witches weren't all born blondes nor fair... and shall I add skinny?

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My Elfeba trades her green skin for red hot lingerie and moves to Chicago.

Knowing that "Wicked!"'s production cost rose to $14 million (i.e. had to pander to as many people as possible) and was officially approved "For kids 8 and older," my Fosse fantasy was a case of undeniable denial. What I didn't expect, however, was a time trip back to the days when the opiniated independent bitch, in heat and in all of us, was a threat. From this point of view, "Wicked!" the Broadway musical is a total disgrace.

If "Wicked!" the book is a study in the nature of true evil, I'm not sure what "Wicked!" the play is about: "Friendship is a many-splendored thing"? "Don't judge a book by its cover or a play by its title"? "Tyrants are forever"? With its all-you-can-eat approach to writing, it's not surprising that the musical has struck a chord among Americans and is a huge hit.

For a broader perspective on the play, and more on the music and the performances, click here to read love/hate reviews by audience members, including insightful comparisons between the book and its stage adaptation.

Oh and one more thing, for truly Wicked Witches, don't go to Broadway, go to e-bay.

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PINK SEXY BIG BUST DREAM LADY's bid has officially ended.

frankiely has a blog.

(My apologies to photographers and actors for the lack of photo credits, I originally wrote this story for friends and consequently didn't keep track of photo sources.)

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