by Jenny Block

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday April 27, 2016

Carrie St. Louis and Alyssa Fox
Carrie St. Louis and Alyssa Fox   

Whether audience members have seen it innumerable times or it's their first time to have the pleasure, "Wicked" always seems to deliver a thrill to everyone in the houses it packs. Last Thursday, as part of the Dallas Summer Musical Series at Music Hall at Fair Park, the scene was no different. From overture to curtain call, the Dallas audience was laughing and clapping; oooing and ahhhing; and otherwise and all ways enthralled.

It's no wonder. It's a clever story and a spectacular show. In case you've somehow not heard, "Wicked" is the prequel to "Wizard of Oz." The musical is based on the novel by the same name. The story answers many of the questions that "Wizard of Oz" leaves readers and viewers asking. Do the Wicked Witches have names? Why is the Wicked Witch of the West green? Why is there a walking and talking scarecrow? Tin man? Lion? Is Glinda really that good? And what's the deal with those flying monkeys?

"Wicked" answers all of those mysteries and then some with humor and poignancy. It follows the lives of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West), Glinda, Nessarose (the Wicked Witch of the East), Fiyero (the Scarecrow), and Boq (the Tin Man) through their formative years. Along the way we meet their teachers, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, of course, and a slew of fellow students, Ozians, and the like.

The result is pure joy alongside plenty of commentary about how the world works. On the past: "Where I come from, we believe all sorts of things that aren't true. We call it history," the Wizard astutely explains. On politics: "The best way to bring people together... is to give them a really good enemy," says the Wizard. And on so called "reality:" The Wizard says, "The truth isn't a thing of fact, or reason. It's simply what everyone agrees on."

The cast brilliantly brings all of the "Wicked" magic to life with enviable comedic timing, glass-breaking voices, and dancing aplenty. Amanda Jane Cooper plays Glinda for the laughs. Less pretty pretty Miss Priss and more "straight to the audience, hold for the laugh, Melissa MacCarthy eat your heart out."

Cooper is a funny actress and the role of Glinda gives her some over-the-top fabulous material with which to work. "It's good to see me, isn't it?" Glinda says when she enters into view inside her floating bubble. "No need to respond! That was rhetorical." She had everyone at hello.

Emily Koch as Elphaba is a powerhouse with the giant voice and the delicate balance of seriousness and humor that the role requires. She brought down the house with "Defying Gravity," a feat audiences of "Wicked" basically require these days. And Jake Boyd as Fiyero was as charming and handsome and empty-headed as is required before he (spoiler alert) falls for Elphaba and realizes the error of his -- and all of the Land of Oz's -- ways. After that, he's as hopelessly devotes as they come, to Elphaba and the cause.

This show is about about witches and magic and and fairy tale fantasies. But it's also about humanity and life and the way the world (sadly) works. And with it being an election year, it's hard not to imagine "Wicked" as a political commentary. Elphaba as the best candidate about whom the haters love to tell lies. The Wizard who plays the candidate who has no clue but is quick to tell everyone what they want to hear. You get the idea.

It's the story of those who choose to "dance through life" versus those who walk through fire with eyes wide open to all things -- wonderful and otherwise. The story is engaging. The book is incredibly clever. The music is impossible to get out of your head, in a good way. And like so many other great productions of "Wicked," this one will hit you where it counts whether you connect with its goodness, its gravity, or its popularity.

"Wicked" plays through May 22 at Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 First Avenue in Dallas. For information and tickets, call 800-514-3849 or visit www.dallassummermusicals.org.

Jenny Block is a Dallas based freelance writer and the author of "Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage" (Seal Press, June 2008). Block's work has appeared in Cosmopolitan (Germany), USA Today, American Way, BeE, bRILLIANT, the Dallas Morning News, D, Pointe, and Virginia Living, as well as on huffingtonpost.com, yourtango.com, and ellegirl.com. You can also find her work in the books "It's a Girl" (Seal Press, March 2006, ed. Andrea J. Buchanan) and "One Big Happy Family" (Riverhead Press, February 2009, Rebecca Walker, ed.).