September 22nd, 2006

Fishy Circumstances

Wicked redux

I'd forgotten how good "Defying Gravity" is in context. On the musical's album, the song has its moments, but it's constructed episodically, plot packaged in between defiant refrain. But take the lights down, add in the plot's tension, levitation, rainbow-fractured lights, wind effects, live orchestra, costumes - and the woman who won the Tony for playing the role of Elphaba on Broadway - and the song sent shivers down my spine. It's a phenomenal piece - and Idina Menzel has an amazing voice, strong, clear, confident, full, rich.

I first saw Wicked last year in Toronto, thanks to pittenweem and a travelling cast. The concept of the backstory of Oz is an appealing one. I've long been partial to Oz - even dressing as Ozma for Halloween one year when little. Wicked takes as feasible the events in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and asks how the elements of that world came to be as they were. The book and the musical based on it are the results. (I still haven't read the Gregory Maguire book on which the musical was based, although I've heard from various people that the book and musical diverge in a number of mid-level significant ways.)

The second time around, musical junkie and die-hard Wicked fan andromakie organized an expedition while she's in town, a group including C., clothsprogs, Tom, and miniosiris, who wore a fabulous velvet, tight-fitting, full-length deep green coat with a long pointy hood. After a round of all-you-can-eat sushi, we headed off to the theater. In the London production, now in preview showings, the staging and the costumes are pretty much the same. There were small differences I thought I noticed, but they could equally be the result of not remembering my first viewing in quite enough detail. The costumes were still fun and appealing, the set still structured around clock-themed elements, a glowing-eyed dragon still framing the proscenium arch.

Both productions stood up reasonably well. For some roles, I prefered my first encounter with the show - I rather liked Madame Morrible better as a bit more of a sung role, for example. But much as the woman I saw play Elphaba the first time around was really good - Idina was extraordinary. She's scheduled to play the role in London for the next three months if you want to catch her in the role.

When we left, miniosiris and andromakie were crammed into the front of the stage door line, hoping for an autograph. They had every intention of returning the very next day if they could get tickets.