May. 11th, 2016

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I have not forgotten I was going to post about Wicked, which I FINALLY saw in person (touring company) last time we went to see my sister C. (The year before we saw West Side Story, which was also fabulous, although the women were way better than the men and we didn't bother to spring for orchestra section.) We almost ended up not seeing it, because all of us had gotten deathly ill a couple of days before, but fortunately we had recovered enough by then that we were up to spending three hours out of the house without collapsing.

It was amazing. I'd "watched" it a while back, but it didn't compare at all to seeing it live. I think a lot of the spectacle needs the full canvas of a live theater, as well as the contrast between the extravagance of the stage and the darkness of the theater. The big group numbers were totally amazing visually in a way I hadn't appreciated before.

It helped that the Elphaba (Emily Koch) was quite excellent. I'm not sure she had the belting volume of some, but more importantly, she managed to emotionally sell us on all the twists and turns of Elphaba's character (some of which really honestly don't make a whole lot of sense). She played Elphaba as a bit of an awkward idealistic nerd, which a) really resonated with C. and me, ha; b) works really well as a way of differentiating her (not just by skin color) from the rest of the [school] cast, both in terms of showing her as divorced from them and in terms of emotionally explaining the continuing rift between her and them (and emotionally showing the consequences of the skin-color rift; it goes both ways); and c) is a good foundation for the emotional twists the character has to take. E.g., it makes sense that sometimes Elphaba's awkwardness and frustration with being awkward manifests as anger occasionally in the first act and more generally in the second act. And the idealism makes a lot more sense to me coupled with the awkward nerdiness; that sense of self-righteousness (sometimes justified, sometimes over-the-top) seems to be underscored by not ever fitting in socially-emotionally as well.

A lot of this, of course, is in the musical itself (I mean, Elphaba is supposed to be idealistic and angry, and the awkwardness is definitely strongly implied), but my previous Elphaba experiences, Katie Rose Clarke (the Elphaba I "watched") and Idina Menzel (clips of whom I've watched) both played Elphaba much more straight in terms of emotional character. Their versions of the character seemed to be much more normal and well-adjusted and hardly awkward at all early on, which made her forays into angry idealism later on make much less sense to me.

The Galinda was fine; she sang well (probably better than the Elphaba, actually), but she was not exceptional the way both C. and I thought the Elphaba was exceptional. Afterwards we went and watched a bunch of Menzel/Chenoweth Wicked Youtube videos, and we agreed that Chenoweth was exceptional (and Menzel was not).

Fiyero was also fine. I've seen some clips of rather wooden Fiyeros, and this one was pretty good. I hadn't realized how important dancing is for his character, and he was an excellent dancer.

The Wizard (Stuart Zagnit) was the surprising one; I'd always found his songs super boring (and they are), but the comic acting really sells those songs. I was impressed.

I had warned my sister beforehand that the plot is sort of… nonsensical. She turned to me after Act I and said, "It really seems to all be hanging together pretty well right now!" After Act II she said, "Well… you were right about the plot."

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