Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Is This Feeling?: A Return to Wicked

I enjoyed Wicked the first time I saw it, though I wasn’t as ga-ga for the show as many others. And I still stand-by my initial feelings about the show, but yet, after seeing it a second time, when my familiarity with the flow of events of the second act positively affect how I feel them, I can’t help but think that Wicked is more than deserving of all the hype and box office success.

To me, there’s something powerful about the character of Elphaba, someone whom I long to be like (except for the outsider part), and her story in Wicked is so beautifully told and superbly executed. In watching the show I was close to being moved to tears twice (a rare phenomenon for me), once when Elphaba is rejected by her father at birth and second, “Defying Gravity,” because I so much long to have the intelligence and power to take a stand to change the world for good.

Elsewhere, the show is intensely smart. In our world today, we are constantly teetering on the edge of Oz, and you can’t help but feel that we are closer than ever to crossing over. By no means am I indicating that we are there, but in watching the economic fear that has dominated our country in the past two months—a fear played upon greatly in the election—it’s easy to see how an entire group of people could be swayed to put their trust in a Wizard (or Hitler). It’s scary. Obviously, I’m not saying that our elected officials are Wizards, but you can see the potential there for those types to weasel their way in . . . not to mention a few similarities in the campaigns of the recent election.

I found the “Animals should be seen and not heard” slogan to be particularly powerful, for there are times I see the desire to silence people in our country. Just go to the Broadway World off-topic message boards and search Elizabeth Hasselback. As a person who was raised that hate in any form was wrong, I can’t help but feel that the increasing air of “only voice your opinion if it matches mine” sentiment which is strongly taking hold in a number of political factions in our country to be unhealthy in every way possible. After all, extremism of any form is going to be dangerous, and differing opinions, no matter how widely they differ, are needed to provide checks and balances to political thought. Yes, for democracy to survive, animals need to be seen and heard.

I also have to say, I’ve heard the Wicked score a million times on CD, but seeing it live made me appreciate Stephen Schwartz’s genius all over again. That is one great score. And you can’t fool fifteen hundred people a night for five years all over the country with sub-par work. His work (not to mention Winnie Holzman’s book) moves, thrills, and delights night after night. You could feel it in the audience.

Overall the tour is in good shape. This is the second time in my life I was supposed to see Katie Rose Clake but got an understudy instead. Donna Vivino is a fine, strong-voiced Elphaba, and the rest of the cast is largely superb (I wrote about most of them in my last column). It was great to see The Drowsy Chaperone alum Lenny Wolpe as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a grandfatherly sort who makes for a freakily huggable nasty.

I don’t know if it was because I was far house right in lottery seats, but this was one of the few shows where I saw stage hands when I would rather not have. It doesn’t beat the fat guy behind the taverna in the Mamma Mia! tour several years ago, who always took his seat behind the set piece thirty seconds after the lights went up, but I would think a show as big and well-produced as Wicked wouldn’t be flashing such gears more than most others.

Mid-way through the first act, I couldn’t help but feel glad that there was a great chance that Wicked would still be touring when my niece gets old enough to see a Broadway show. I only hope I have kids in time for them to see it as well.

the Broadway Mouth
November 12, 2008

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