May 27th, 2010

Moon powers

Wicked Girl Saving Herself

A year and a half after reading the book, I have finally seen Wicked. Based on its popularity and the fervent love from its fans, I expected it to blow my mind, fill me with unending joy, and make me immune to all disease.

I think I will still get some diseases, but the musical was very good.

It was very different from the book, which I expected, although I had forgotten just how different it was until I refreshed my memory afterward with Wikipedia. I liked how compressing the story really helped focus on the development of Elphaba into the "Wicked Witch" we know she'll become, particularly the slow visual transformation from a bookish student to an iconic villain—although her "villainy" is all about perception, which is the point of the show. Her relationship with Glinda was also clearer in the show. I like that the way it's framed from Glinda's perspective adds another layer of tragedy to the story: it's a lovely friendship that gets torn apart through no fault of their own. Mostly. I didn't like what they did with Fiyero, though; that was too "typical musical love triangle" for me.

It's a very technical production, and the set and lighting were very cool. There was a giant dragon above the stage that unfortunately only flopped around a lot and never flew over the audience and ate Munchkins or whatever. But I loved how the set was always changing through the show, during the show, so there was no waiting. Giant set pieces would be moving on and off fluidly. The Act I finale was totally badass and unlike anything I've seen on stage before, largely because of all the special effects. I had seen pictures of that final moment, but actually seeing it on stage was unbelievable. Clearly the high point of the show.

Which meant that Act II was quite inferior to Act I, and I was tired and sleepy by that point anyway (it's a long show!). Act I had such an interesting build, and Act II was just...finishing the story. The divergence from the book was even greater in the second act, especially the ending, which made me roll my eyes. I did think certain...transformations were clever, though.

The songs were more pop-y than I expected but weren't terribly catchy; I can't remember a single tune today. If I listened to the soundtrack a million times, I'm sure I would get them stuck in my head, though. There were some good, fun songs, for sure. I liked that the songs would frequently switch between singing and speaking mid-verse. And the singing was impressive. We got Eden Espinosa and Kendra Kassebaum, who appear to have played their roles longer and more often than anyone else, so they were great. Eden frequently had to command an empty stage all by her greensome, and Kendra was as supremely, hilariously, adorably irritating as she was supposed to be. I'm not that familiar with Idina Menzel, but I was imagining Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda and could see how perfect that was. Stephen Schwartz is an asshole, though: the actress playing Elphaba has to have a crazy range.

Dan and Colin, who hadn't read the book, really liked it and were impressed that it was so complex for a popular musical, and I do like that they kept some of the complexities and darker themes from the book, but it felt like a sunshine-y happy version of the story. Which still worked and, as I said, made for a much clearer narrative throughline. It was a fun show, and I enjoyed it.