cahn: (Default)
[personal profile] cahn
So, I might have watched it. I quite enjoyed it -- it's sort of this last decade's Les Mis, isn't it? with the smoke and the dancing and special effects and big chorus numbers and pop wholesome faux-deep message? And I'm a total sucker for friendships, so there's that. (It is hilarious to me that the love interest seems really rather like an afterthought tacked on.) Also, was Elphaba supposed to be the heroine? Because it seemed quite clear that Galinda was way more interesting, even though she got no solos. Elphaba really didn't have nearly as much of a character arc. (But hey, I also find "Thank Goodness" a much more interesting song, character-wise, than "Defying Gravity" -- it's so interesting to hear Galinda sing "I couldn't be happier!" with the layers of, well, unhappiness -- so there's that.)

But... is it just me, or does this whole musical make no sense? That is, huge sections of the plot seem to have been shoehorned into place in ways that are just... incoherent and random.

-It makes no sense to me that Elphaba has two tickets to the Emerald City and she gives one to Galinda (sorry, "it's Glinda now!") instead of to her sister, given what we've seen so far up to that point regarding their relationships. Unless the Emerald City is really, like, disabled-inaccessible or something. But there was no explanation of why she'd pick Glinda over her sister, when she's never done so before.

The rest of Act 1 I was mostly okay with. Act 2... was when things really started falling apart.

-So it's this big deal how Elphaba is the only one who can perform magic out of the book, and then Nessarose, on her first try, can do it? Sure, she might have mispronounced it, but clearly she's got potential, yeah? So... uh?

-Elphaba is missing for a long time, and then suddenly she shows up... at the Wizard's palace. Um, what? Why? I guess to set the monkeys free? Why then? Why randomly after she's had this showdown with her sister? Very confusing.

-Elphaba and Fiyero get to sing this song which, if I understand correctly, boils down to, "Hey, this relationship might fall apart immediately, but at least we had hot sex in the meantime." Which, um. I guess is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice! But not quite what I expected from their characters, nor does it seem to bear any resemblance to what they say in the dialogue.

-Fiyero is presumed dead... and suddenly Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch of the West? Complete with personality change! Maybe it's just the actress I saw, but it was weird and jarring. And then she changes right back when she learns Fiyero is alive, just in time to have a touching duet with Glinda. (Which I love, but still.) I got a bit of whiplash there. It's another reason I like Glinda's arc better; it's much more gradual.

-Elphaba insists that Glinda not tell everyone the whole story because... because why? Well, because then the Wicked Witch wouldn't be wicked like in the original Baum, and then we couldn't have "No One Mourns the Wicked" as a song, I guess? Really it's a giant chunk of canon-compliance shoehorning; honestly, this is the part of the musical that makes the least sense. Glinda is basically the only power left in Oz (how it happens that Morrible and the Wizard bow to her will just because she figures out they are corrupt, I have no idea, especially since Morrible has magic and Glinda doesn't really; that's another issue) so why would they, as Elphaba claims, turn against her? And even if they would now, why not tell Oz later? Just. Does Not Make Sense.

-Glinda gets the book of spells. Which she can't read. I guess we saw from Nessarose's example that maybe this doesn't matter, but still... what?

-Fiyero and Elphaba agree they can never come back to Oz and Glinda can't know they're alive... why? Is the fear that Glinda will one day totally do a personality change thing like Elphaba did? I think it's really just for canon compliance, and so that Glinda can have her little song of pathos at the end, although I think it would be equally as sad (though differently) if she did know Elphaba was alive, but would not see her for years (if ever).

Date: 2011-11-11 08:25 pm (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
I saw a production with Eden Espinosa as Elphaba, and she filled out the role with enough nuance to make me think that the problem is the writing/staging, not the character per se. I mean, c'mon, of COURSE Elphaba can't REALLY be the protagonist: it's an alto part! (grr.)

Yes, plot holes large enough to drive a fleet of Hummers through. Have you read the book? It is also not good, but differently and a little less senselessly. My short take is here for musical with a link thence for the book.

ETA and I see that in my post I forgot one thing: the orchestration is pathetically thin. Pathetic.
Edited Date: 2011-11-11 08:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-11-14 06:33 pm (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
The orchestration is sort of chirpy and cute. :P More accompaniment than orchestration.

Reason and I listened to the soundtrack again this morning before I wrote the current comment. Agreed on Chenoweth, of course, although Hilty, Glinda in the production I saw, is also good, in a more vivid and less studied way. Agreed also on the arc problem, and the pleasure of friendship + duets.

Seriously, it's a win when the lead alto isn't dead or exiled. A few musicals get around this with lead mezzos (indeed, Menzel is a mezzo, which is part of why she sounds so light as Elphaba, IMO), but it's not the same.

ETA I think that one reason why the musical is so flat is that it couldn't choose between "it's okay to be green" and "everyone wants to be popular/that girl." It wanted to be deep enough to acknowledge misfits, but it reduces Nessa Rose/Bock to a few bars (neatly removing Glinda's culpability in her maltreatment of Bock's crush) that fail to address whether both NR and Bock want to believe the lie she sets up for them. NR likes the attention, but would she want someone who's been assigned to her if she knew? Etc. And Elphaba's "don't lose sight of who you are" is meaningless in context of the musical's story because she does; she performs defiance in a way that sacrifices self instead of embracing it, because she gives in to the lies others have constructed for her. What difference, then, whether those lies are Glinda's in-the-musical-well-meaning ones (less well meaning in the book) or those of the characters who've never considered her their friend.
Edited (moved text around to make it more readable) Date: 2011-11-14 06:56 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-11-12 12:52 pm (UTC)
scaramouche: Dorothy's ruby slippers (ruby slippers)
From: [personal profile] scaramouche
Bless, you've finally seen the show! And yes, a whole lot of the musical doesn't make sense -- even taking away how it doesn't fit in with the bigger Oz stories it's supposed to be derived from (which is my biggest problem with it, really) -- the internal logic is helluva inconsistent. That said, I was (and still am, I suppose) fascinated with how it's ballooned into a phenomenon.

Who were the actresses you saw as Elphaba and Glinda?

Date: 2011-11-13 05:51 am (UTC)
ase: Music icon (Music)
From: [personal profile] ase
When I saw the SF production last summer, I felt like Elphaba was better played than when you saw it, but the plot only makes opera sense: maximum emotion, minimum logic. Also, I don't love the soundtrack the way I loved Rent or Chess. (Chess is a terrible musical with a great soundtrack.) There's a few songs I like a lot, like "Defying Gravity" and, well, Elphaba and Fiyero's duet, for classic dramatic irony! But I like musicals for music and Wicked did better with fancy staging.
Edited Date: 2011-11-13 05:55 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-11-15 05:33 am (UTC)
ase: Music icon (Music)
From: [personal profile] ase
Wicked makes zero sense, except maybe as a big Elphaba/Glinda BFF/love story. I read the book, I watched the musical, I have no idea what Broadway was thinking when they adapted Maguire's book. However, Idina Menzel got another hit musical out of it, so I am willing to roll with it. And the musical hits a lot of women-friendship buttons, which is great, but also frustrating that it's so unusual.

Chess is, by most reports, not a great musical; I love the soundtrack anyway. The American recording is sometimes considered stronger, but I love the British soundtrack on the strength of first exposure and "Nobody's Side". "Rent" came to me at about the right time to be uncritical, even if my loyalties are with Bennie. I can still love "La Vie Boheme" and "No Day But Today" most days.


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