Friday, November 30, 2007

Wicked Was Wicked Good!

Oh, I know that’s a lame title, but it is entirely accurate. We just returned home from the Bushnell Center in Hartford, Connecticut. We saw the touring company performance of Stephen Schwartz’ "Wicked" and it was marvelous!

A few weeks ago, Chuck and I went to see the revival and contemporary re-staging of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” at the Colonial Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. It was dreadful; poorly miked, self conscious and, most improbably, lacking passion. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even bother to mention it here on my blog. So I admit to having a touch of trepidation that the touring company of “Wicked” couldn’t live up to the Original Broadway Cast Recording starring Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. But Katie Rose Clarke as “Glinda” and Carmen Cusack as “Elphaba” easily gave those other Broadway gals a run for their money with their excellent voices! The rest of the cast was quite fine. The staging was very high calibre. The lighting and sound did exactly what they were supposed to do and did it well in the exceptionally long, exquisitely decorated, art deco Mortensen Hall.

“Wicked” is based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. It explores how the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good came to be, before author L. Frank Baum, in 1900 and Hollywood, in 1939, brought them to life in the "Wizard of Oz". The dark themes of oppression and suppression of free speech and individual rights, resonate powerfully whether you look to today’s headlines or Europe in the 1930’s or any other moment in history when a few in power rule by whim and calumny. This tension is offset by the bright and witty lyrics of the lighter musical numbers, but never jarringly so.

After tonight’s finale, the audience at the Bushnell rose to their feet, cheering the cast at the curtain call and left the theater chatting brightly, humming and singing snatches from the score. That’s a collective review any cast member would be proud to lay claim to!


dancingmorganmouse said...

I loved that book, and the sequel, I can't imagine it as a musical though.

Pink Granite said...

Hey DMM -
"Wicked" opened on Broadway in 2003 to mixed reviews from the critics, but caught on with audiences. We had heard of the book(s) because Maguire lives here in Massachusetts and his success was covered by the local media.

We've done things a bit out of order. We bought the CD, then the book, then went to see the musical! We still have yet to read the book, but that's next. Once we do, I'll be better able to compare and contrast!
- Lee

elphie said...

I first read the book and then wore out the musical CD in addition to watching a lot of bootleg clips on You Tube. I have seen the show three times and just got tix to see it a fourth on Broadway. I saw the tour once and the Chicago production twice, in which I was once fortunate to catch Carmen Cusach as the standby for Elphaba. She was a powerhouse in that role and I am so pleased she is now the star in the tour. I will be catching that when it comes to Charlotte in April The musical is lightly based on the book but is a wonderful production. I love both! I just love Elphaba!

Pink Granite said...

Hi Elphie -
Thank you so much for the information and clarification!
We were so impressed with the touring company. Katie Rose Clarke and Carmen Cusack both have very expressive and powerful voices. I'm sure you'll love their April performance in Charlotte!
- Lee