Stephen Schwartz’s ‘Wicked’ Opens at Benedum; Rex Hosts Actor/Singer Creed Bratton (Wed., 1/24/18)

1) Despite its fan base, alternate history is a niche genre, rarely producing a household-name hit—but that’s not the case with alternate Oz. Everybody knows about Wicked, the novel-turned-musical that tells the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Witch’s perspective. The touring production is booked into Benedum Center for a stupendous run of 23 performances, which still won’t be enough: Most shows were nearly sold out before Christmas. Why is Wicked so popular? In part, because what it’s an alternate of is so popular. The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz just might be the best-known movie ever, and Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of the Wicked Witch as a cackling, bad-to-the-bone hag has been seared into the mind’s eyeballs of millions. Wicked (which opened on Broadway in 2003) turns that horrid image upside down. The musical gives us a misunderstood gal who’s actually a good-hearted activist, blacklisted for her efforts to oppose the scurrilous Wizard’s mean regime. Besides, she’s pretty. She’s in love. And she can sing! Wicked has music and lyrics by Carnegie Mellon alumnus Stephen Schwartz; book by Winnie Holzman. The musical is presented here as part of the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series. Performances continue through February 11. 237 7th St., Cultural District. (MV)

The national touring company of 'Wicked.' Photo: Joan Marcus.

The national touring company of ‘Wicked.’ Photo: Joan Marcus.

2) Who is Creed Bratton? That’s a long story, and a question best answered by seeing him at the Rex Theater, where he’ll perform “A Night of Music and Comedy.” TV fans know Bratton as the actor who played a fictional version of himself in the long-running NBC series “The Office.” He invented the role, persuading the director to let him do it, and scored a hit as the elderly ex-hippie whose suit and tie can’t conceal a very strange personality. But long before that, the real Creed Bratton was a 1960s rock star. After attending a couple of colleges in his native California, he busked, bummed, and gigged his way around Europe and the Middle East as part of a guitar-and-vocals trio called the Young Californians. Then Bratton returned home to find fame with the pop/rock group The Grass Roots. While backing up frontman Rob Grill on late-‘60s hits such as “Let’s Live for Today” and “Midnight Confession,” Bratton also wrote some songs for The Grass Roots, including “Dinner for Eight.” There’s much more to tell—and rumor has it that Bratton will spin a few tales in his appearance at the Rex. 8 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. (MV)

3) The Pitt men’s basketball team is back on its home court at The Pete against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. The very young Panthers are trying really hard. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. Hail to Pitt! Petersen Events Center, 3719 Terrace St., Oakland.

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Rick Handler

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