Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wicked is wicked!

(Let's get this bit out of the way first: Read Dorothy!)

So, yeah, I finally saw Wicked on Thursday. It was a lot of fun! Okay, where to start?

How about the cast? Yeah, we lucked out and got who some consider to be two of the best, Shoshana Bean as Elphaba and Megan Hilty as Glinda. We got them as they're both from the Northwest, so they joined the tour in Portland, came to Seattle, and will move on to Toronto. They were both terrific. (Disclaimer to fans of other Elphabas and Glindas: Hey, these are the only two I've ever seen, all right? I'm sure there are many other good actors for both parts, and I make no claim that Sho and Megan are superior to Idina, Kristen, Kendra, Ana, or whoever your favorite is.) Okay, Shoshana couldn't quite hit the high notes in "Defying Gravity" the way Idina Menzel did, but I'd be surprised if anyone could. These two were funny, touching, and everything they needed to be. Megan Hilty is a babe, I might add.

Ah, but what of the rest of the cast? Yup, more good stuff. The other big part that stood out for me was Sebastian Arcelus as Fiyero. After listening to the cast album for years now, and seeing Norbert Leo Butz perform on the Tony Awards a couple of years ago, Arcelus was not at all what I was expecting. He was young, dashing, handsome, sweet-voiced, and overall not much like Butz. But he sure seemed to be enjoying himself, and sold me on a young, dashing, curly-headed Fiyero. The Wizard — and we got one of the understudies, and I'm sorry to say I forgot to take note of who it was — was also great. It's a more complex Wizard than in the books or any movie version, but he pulled off both the avuncular imp and the conniving manipulator equally well. Jennifer Waldman as Nessarose did the best she could in a too-small part. And there really wasn't a weak performer in the whole show.

The staging was terrific. Laura and I both noticed the lighting, particularly in the Emerald City (well, that's hard to miss, it hits you so hard). No wonder it won a Tony. The sets were just right, not being overwhelming yet giving enough feel to what was going on. I was particularly impressed by the bridge. I know enough about stagecraft to know how touch it is to make a practical bridge that much of the cast can walk on, and I wonder what they must have done backstage to get people up there. The rain was also effective. The costumes were great (and I greatly appreciate all of those quick changes Megan Hilty had to go through), especially the intertwined "O-Z" motif in some of the Emerald City outfits. We fans of the books appreciate it.

Oh, the story? Well, I'm not going to give too much away. It certainly is not the same Oz of the books, and it even has enough differences from its source material that it's not even the Oz envisioned in Gregory Maguire's novel. There were a few bits towards the end, when the story gets intertwined with The Wizard of Oz, that didn't quite gel in the broader sense, but on its own, it worked fine (just don't think too much about how it all fits into The Movie). The twist ending sure threw me for a loop, and Laura managed to keep that a secret from me for some time now! Overall, I enjoyed it, and Laura and I are looking forward to it coming to town again. Yes, we're probably going to see it again some time. And twenty years or so from now, I'd love to be part of a community theater production. Hmm, I'll be old enough by then, maybe I could pull off playing the Wizard. Oh, wait, I'd have to learn to sing...

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