The Aronoff Center is going Ozmopolitan with a two week long run of WICKED, America's favorite Broadway musical. (Really! It's been the highest in the nation for ticket sales this season.)

A prequel to The Wizard of Oz, the show opens with the celebration of the Wicked Witch's death as the people of Munchkinland ask about the cause of wickedness:  "Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?"

Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West
Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America

This question resonates as we journey back to the formative years of the citizens of Oz, leading with the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch, known then as Elphaba and Glinda. In two contrasting roles, Glinda shines as the perky, popular blonde while Elphaba is the brooding intellectual who has harnessed magical powers. The two bond as frenemies as we learn how there's more to Elphaba and the flying monkeys than what meets the eye...and that the Wizard may not be all that wonderful after all. Chocked full of delightful hilarity and plenty of references to the 1939 film, WICKED presents a highly imaginative backstory to The Wizard of Oz with a soundtrack you'll be immediately downloading to your iPod.

Young Elphaba and Glinda at university
Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America

Having seen WICKED four times plus Idina Menzel's solo tour (Idina was the original Elphaba), I've learned most of the songs by heart, if not most of the dialogue too. Each national tour has unique performers creating subtle differences for every bi-annual show. It's exciting to see the rotating actresses' take on Elphaba and Glinda; the chemistry, the demeanor, and the vocal range of their songs.

Elphaba performs the showstopping number: Defying Gravity.
Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America

Now I don't expect everyone to hit that eighth octave in Defying Gravity; not even Idina herself can sing that note anymore. What I do expect is consistency. While all of the songs had their strengths, there were often moments where both Glinda (Gina Beck) and Elphaba (Alison Luff) were channeling William Shatner, speaking certain lyrics that should be sung or singing at a slower tempo.  For a fanatic of the musical like me, it noticeably changes the feel of the original songs. Both Beck and Luff are talented, but not my first choice for the stars of WICKED. Their style would work best in a rock musical, like Broadway's Ghost or Flashdance. It's WICKED. Everyone's looking forward to an Idina Menzel-esque experience. Don't reinvent the wheel. What do you think? Do you hear a difference between 2011 Elphaba and 2014 Elphaba?

Elphaba flies high above the stage during Defying Gravity; the song with the eighth octave and one of my personal favorites
Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America

Fastidiousness aside, WICKED is definitely worth going to see for the plot alone; one of the most clever and detail-oriented with little twists in the story in every act. I could gaze at the set for hours to be mystified by the intricate craftsmanship that creates a majestic steampunk theme. The costumes are just as gorgeous: from tiny hats to bold-colored, old timey wingtip boots, ladies, you'll be wondering where you can purchase a pair for yourself.

The fashionable people of Oz
Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America

Considering going to WICKED for the first time? Do it. You'll have a blast. This is also the perfect show to introduce someone to Broadway who has never been to the theatre before. It will steal their heart and create a lifelong fan. WICKED was my first Broadway show and I'm still head-over-ruby heels for it. As for repeat hardcore fans, you should go and see it too. Just know going in that the songs may differ. If all else fails, you can always help out by singing along ...because every voice deserves a chance to fly.

WICKED runs at The Aronoff through March 23, 2014.

Need tickets? Follow the instructions below to take part in the WICKED lottery to win a pair of orchestra seats for only $25 each!