Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo
April 24-May 5; show times at 1, 2, 6:30, 7:30 and 8 p.m.
millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300
There's no hero more unlikely than the Wicked Witch of the West, who is arguably one of the most epic villains ever. This iconic baddie arrives at the Miller Auditorium to tell her TRUE story in the smash hit musical Wicked, Broadway's highest-grossing show for an unprecedented eight consecutive years.
Winner of 35 major awards including three Tony Awards, Wickedtells of the story of outcast Elphaba, whose green skin and unusual talents transform her into an object of fear and loathing for Oz's inhabitants. The play's sensitive exploration of physical abnormality, prejudice and victimization has been a major rallying point for audiences of all ages.
"It's so relevant," said Gina Ferrall, who plays Madame Morrible in the show. "Anti-bullying is the message of the show—there are so many positive messages. It's the story of an untold friendship and of the labels put on you. It's about not judging a book by its cover ... that's what has made the show so incredibly popular—we all relate. We all go through what [Elphaba] goes through."
Despite its strong moral undercurrent, Wickedis neither stiff nor preachy, breaking up the tension of its heavier moments with quick humor from its quirky characters. Quips of Ozian slang, sly references to the original Oz film, and outrageously hilarious blonde jokes give the frivolous Ozians their own loveable charm.
"All the minor characters have very intricate details. Every little character adds so much,"Ferrall said.
Oz's goofy ostentation is emphasized still further by a stunning array of flashy, outrageous costumes, boasting exquisitely imaginative design.
"The costumes are beautiful,"Ferrall said. "One of my beaded gowns is done by the same house in London that did Kate Middleton's gown."
Breathtaking sets transport audiences to a world of fantasy and spectacle as well. A gigantic metal dragon hisses and writhes above the stage, while an intricate mesh of steampunk gears frame glitzy settings such as the Emerald City.
"I love when they go to the EmeraldCity! You see it and go 'Aaah!' because it is just so magical,"Ferrall said. "All the technical aspects are so incredibly magnificent. The crew is top notch at what they do."
Wicked's true showstopper, however, is Elphaba's triumphant song "Defying Gravity," an enormous fan favorite that has become the show's anthem. 'Empowerment' becomes the word of the moment as Elphaba casts off her limitations and rises in the air in a spell-binding dazzle of smoke and light.
"I love standing in the wings and watching 'Defying Gravity.' I can't get over it. It's just unbelievable,"Ferrall said.
For live audiences, the show offers not only a sumptuous eye feast, but also the bonus opportunity of seeing a one-of-a kind performance.
"No night is alike because it's live ... audiences stand up and scream at the end of each show. What actress doesn't love that? It's an incredible night."
Other Performing Arts Events
Kiss Me Kate
Gilmore Theatre, Kalamazoo
April 11-20; show times at 8 and 2 p.m.
wmich.edu/theatre, (269) 387-6222
Tension mounts and sparks fly when a director decides to cast himself opposite both his ex-wife and his new flame in a production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Confusion, hilarity and romance ensue as the former couple finds themselves paralleling the Bard's infamous warring pair in surprising ways. Chaos only escalates when two uproarious gangsters stumble into the picture, adding further complications to the play within a play.
Grand Rapids Ballet
April 12-13, 26-27, 7:30 p.m.
$25 ($40 for two-program pack)
grballet.com, (616) 454-4771
For a special two-part program, the Grand Rapids Ballet brings you all the grace and elegance of classical ballet with a special bonus twist. The unique series gives traditional dance a modern cutting edge by integrating experimental elements of digital technology and media to showcase the human body in fresh and imaginative ways. Innovative sets, props, costumes and lighting merge together to highlight original work from Artist-in-Residence Brian Enos and other local artists.
Catch Me If You Can
Wharton Center, East Lansing
April 16-21; show times at 1, 2, 6:30, 7:30 and 8 p.m.
whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982
Based on an astonishing true story and Steven Spielberg's hit film, Catch Me If You Can goes to show that a little bit of charisma can go a long way. Using only charm, ingenuity and a pinch of luck, gutsy teenager Frank Abangale Jr. successfully cons his way into millions of dollars. But can the suave swindler stay one step ahead of the relentless FBI agent hot on his heels? Flashy scenery, leggy stewardesses and catchy tunes add to the spectacle of this cheeky cat-and-mouse game.