By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Nov 06, 2015 at 9:03 AM

Every now and then, there is a moment in live theater when the audience rises as one and the sound is like a thousand shotguns going off all at once.

That’s the sound you get at the end of the first act of "Wicked," the 12-year-old Broadway hit that is currently at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

The sound was so very soul-pounding that it caught me by surprise, that so many people had been so very carried away by a green-faced witch.

You have to picture a stage filled with munchkins and pillars of light and Elphaba (Alyssa Fox) flying high center stage singing an anthem for women everywhere. If you have ever felt that being a woman has opened you up to heartache and maybe even discrimination, then this song, "Defying Gravity," is for you.

"Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown!
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!"

Bang! Curtain down. Crowd up.

There is something magical about this musical story of two witches, Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, played by Carrie St. Louis.

When it opened a dozen years ago, it was to a mixed critical reception. The critics, mainly men it must be said, were lukewarm about this show that dabbles in female empowerment. But a funny thing happened in the years that followed. Women and girls showed up at the show on Broadway and the national tours. They showed up in droves, and that was the case Thursday night.

There were plenty of couples, but there were lots of tweens, dressed up and ready to mouth the lyrics as they flooded down from the stage. Turning around, I could see hundreds of rapturous young faces, well-scrubbed and smiling big time.

"Wicked" is a big-time show and a big show. The set is big. The costumes are big. The music is big. The theme of learning to be happy in your own skin is big. And the reaction of the crowd was big.

There is not much subtle about this show. If there is a top, almost everything in this show is over it. But that hardly makes a difference.

The story of these two witches who move from hate, to friendship, to love and finally torespect, is kind of corny. But it’s the kind of corny that you love. And the two actors who give us the witches are reason enough to go see it.

St. Louis is a little bit like a valley girl, wrapped up in how cute and cool she is. She is very funny in a ditzy sort of way, and she has a warm and wild soprano that can soar and growl with equal fury. Kristin Chenoweth created Glinda on Broadway, and St. Louis takes her Glinda a little further to the edge than the original.

Fox is the character with depth. Elphaba is torn asunder by her life and the path she has been walking since birth. She has lots in common with Kermit; it’s not easy being green. But she has the kind of voice that can drag a lot of emotion out of a little music. Elphaba was created by Idina Menzel in the original cast, and Fox has that same kind of vocal timbre that vibrates with honesty.

The music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz can stand with any of the pop-culture sounds you hear on the radio today. Nobody will ever confuse them with great music. But with this cast and these stars, the performance lifts the music to glorious and fan-inspiring heights.

"Wicked" runs through Nov. 15 and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.