MONTREAL — We’re really not in Kansas anymore.
The Broadway smash musical hit “Wicked” comes to the Place des Arts stage for an impressive month-long run, Aug. 1 through 26.
“Wicked” tells the tale of the two witches of Oz before a little Midwestern girl named Dorothy ever showed up.
“‘Wicked’ is the untold story of Glinda and Elphaba or — as people know her as — the Wicked Witch of the West from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said actress Catherine Charlebois, who plays the role of Nessarose.
“We sort of know the tail end of Glinda and Elphaba’s story from the movie, so ‘Wicked’ gives a peek of what happens before.”
“Wicked,” the musical, is based on the 1996 Gregory Maguire novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” The book took inspiration from the 1939 film, which was based on the 1900 L. Frank Baum novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Charlebois, a Boston-area native who attended Syracuse University, says most audience members know that this isn’t a musical version of the classic film, but more of a musical prequel.
“And even if you don’t know that, you’ll still be pleasantly surprised,” she said. “I think it’s such an interesting take on that original story. It gives a different and interesting perspective. It’s a great take on the characters you already know.”
And, after you’ve seen “Wicked,” Charlebois has a great suggestion:
“It’s fun to watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and see that story again. It’ll give you a whole different idea about the characters on the screen.”
Does Dorothy ever show up in “Wicked”?
“Well, a little bit. We hear about her a lot,” Charlebois said. “You sort of see her in the shadow and know that she’s there, but we never actually see her.”
This tale focuses more on Glinda, Elphaba and some new characters, including Nessarose, the character Charlebois plays. Nessarose is the younger sister of Elphaba. Nessarose has used a wheelchair since she was born.
“Elphaba and I have a very special relationship,” Charlebois said. “She’s always been my big sister. She’s always taken care of me.”
The first time the audience meets Elphaba and Nessarose together is on their first day of school.
“And Nessarose is hoping that this is going to be a new start for her. She’ll no longer be in the shadow of her big sister, she’ll have new friends,” Charlebois said. “But it doesn’t quite go the way she had hoped.”
The first day of school rarely does.
Charlebois said her character has a love interest in the show: Boq, a munchkin.
“But Boq also has a big thing for Glinda, so there’s a bit of a love triangle there,” she said.
Things get very interesting for Nessarose in the second act, but Charlebois is sworn to secrecy and won’t give any spoilers away.
Plenty of universal themes abound in “Wicked,” from the love triangle to “never judging a book by its cover,” Charlebois said.
“It even explores elements of bullying,” she said. “It will let you see that theme from a different angle.”
Charlebois says this is a show that all ages can enjoy.
“And the audience will see themselves in a little part of each character.”
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: Place des Arts, 175 Ste. Catherine St. W., Montreal.
WHEN: Various show times Aug. 1 through 26.
ADMISSION: Tickets range from $52.49 to $139.47. For tickets or information, call (514) 842-2112 or visit www.laplacedesarts.com or www.evenko.ca.