Various Artists, Wicked
A sparkling document of an important show
When the histories of the early 21st Century Broadway Musical are written, it will no doubt start and end with Stephen Schwartz’s runaway smash musical Wicked, now entering its fifth year. For over half a decade, this gleeful “point of view” look at the Wicked Witch of the West (from, obviously, The Wizard of Oz, based on the novel by Gregory McGuire) in her early years has been packing the biggest theatre on Broadway. This recording of the original cast is a sparkling document of an important show, with no less than Idina Menzel (of Rent fame) taking the role of Elpheba (a.k.a. The Wicked Witch) and Kristen Chennoweth (from The West Wing) playing Glinda the good. All is not as you’d expect in Oz when this show starts out, and through Schwartz’s delightful and rangy score (he who also brought you Godspell, Pippin and The Baker’s Wife) we get to know the back story of these characters. Yes, Glinda is your worst high school nightmare, but on something of a dare she takes on the green-faced Elpheba as a kind of project. The two become fast friends, take a day trip to the Emerald City, and from there the plot advances.