Sunday, February 12, 2012

So, I went to a big, splashy Broadway musical (Wicked)

I don't remember not liking The Wizard of Oz.  The movie, anyway.  I've never read the book.  I don't know that we watched it every year when it came on TV as kids, but I've seen it often enough, including in film school and then several times afterward.  We've got it floating around on DVD here somewhere.

That said, I didn't make it through the Fairuza Balk starring Return to Oz, nor a recent SyFy Channel attempt at an update.  

And while I don't talk about it much, I more or less grew up going to the theater all the time, going to see musicals, drama, comedy, what-have-you, in venues from college campuses to community playhouses to the bigger venues in Houston (no, we didn't fly to New York to see shows).  In addition, I did a bit of my own "acting" back in high school, but wasn't actually any good.  In general, though, all that left me with a soft spot for live performance.  

Here's the deal:  going to see plays is @#$%ing expensive.  I tip my hat to my folks, because I only understood in the abstract what a big deal it was to include their stupid kid in outings to what had to have been pretty pricey shows.  Most of which I very much enjoyed, but, still.  Now that I'm paying for it, I better see a flying monkey or two for my dollar, and I'm not going to wind up going all that often.

I was a bit torn about going to see Wicked as I'm never really sure what I'm getting with a touring Broadway Show in the era where Lion King is a big draw (I am the one person in America who was sort of non-plussed with the magic of Julie Taymor's puppets when I saw the show in Arizona) and Spider-Man with a soundtrack by U2 seemed like a good way to fill seats.  Basically, I sort of think of musicals as a showy stage production more than I think of them as a particularly powerful way to communicate a narrative.  There's a hell of a lot of difference between a revival of The Music Man and By the Skin of Our Teeth.  But it can work.

I should also add that I don't want to begrudge the show its success and hate to look down my nose at something just because it was good enough on Broadway that its become the soundtrack of soccer moms in mini-vans all across the country.  Anything live that's not sports that catches the public's imagination should get a nod.

All that said, I very much liked the story of Wicked.  It didn't deviate much from what I'd pieced together before entering the show, but apparently it strays from the source material a bit, so I am probably going to read the novel at some point (and The Wizard of Oz).  For the audience here:  the show plays a bit like the Star Wars prequels, telling the story of who The Wicked Witch of the West actually is and how she got to be such a crank by the time Dorothy shows up in Oz.   I'm not one to say nobody is actually evil, just differently motivated.  But everyone has a story, and I think if we can explore Darth Vader's origins, its worth looking at how the lady in the black hat got there, too.  And the path for our Witch to get her to the castle makes for good story.

I'm not sure the music worked particularly well for me, and it is a musical, so...  there's that.  Its not shoddy, but aside from show-stopper "Defying Gravity", its not got quite as many musical moments as the big guns of the 1980's and 90's.  I felt the performers were quite good, even if I had seen the terribly lovely Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith on the Tony's perform the number and had that in my head going into the show.

Expect fabulous sets, costumes, etc...  even a pretty snappy special effect or two.  

And while it was a lovely date night:  this is a good one for you girlfriends out there to go see together.  Its a bit of a buddy story.

At any rate, that was our Valentine's outing, so Tuesday will be Hot Pockets and CSI for us, I guess.


picky said...

Yea! So glad you enjoyed it. I never liked The Wizard of Oz but very much enjoyed Wicked. In fact, I've seen it twice, once in Houston and once in London.

Both times, I spontaneously teared up during "Defying Gravity" - not because of the emotion of the song so much as for the absolute beauty of the notes and the voice of the person singing it.

But you're right, other than that one song there aren't a whole host of great ones.

Simon MacDonald said...

I've seen Wicked in Chicago and quite enjoyed it. Apparently it is my wife's best friends favourite show and she's seen it more than 5 times so she had to take us. I've also read the novel that it was based on and I can tell you that it does indeed differ from the musical. The novel is much darker and not as happy but a good read none the less.

In the version we saw Glinda completely stole the show. What an airhead!