DES MOINES — Hayley Podschun walks a fine line as Galinda in the return of “Wicked” to the Des Moines Civic Center, where it will run through Nov. 10.
Galinda isn't the title character, but she is one of the main witches. Podschun plays up the laughs in the role, a risky move in what is essentially a drama. One step too far, and she goes from scene stealer to a distraction.
Fortunately for the production, Podschun walks right up to the line but never crosses it. The interactions between her Galinda and Jennifer DiNoia's Elphaba wind up being funny and insightful, bringing depth to both that might otherwise be absent.
The return of “Wicked” is substantially the same production that arrived in the same theater in November 2011. There aren't any major changes to the set or approach to the musical, and that's a good thing. The story itself is enough of a deviation from the familiar story of the Wizard, the witches, and Oz, focusing instead on how Galinda, later Glinda, and Elphaba became the good and bad witches we know.
“Wicked” presents a collection of (often deeply) flawed characters rather than two-dimensional archetypes from MGM's 1939 film. That's because the source, Gregory Maguire's book of the same name, turned the story on its head. As events sweep away Galinda's complete lack of gravitas and deepen Elphaba's alienation from society, both become sympathetic characters who aren't entirely in charge of their own destinies.
That's not to let them off the hook. Both make decisions that leave the audience questioning their ethical compasses. So does virtually every other character. It's somehow fitting for a story most of us were introduced to in black and white to do so well playing with shades of gray: No one, by the end, is purely good.
Neither, though, is anyone purely Wicked.