a preponderance of punctuation marks (reedrover) wrote,
a preponderance of punctuation marks

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Wicked, the musical -- my commentary

I saw Wicked last night. (Washington Post Review)

For those of you who don't know, it's the musical based lightly on a book by Gregory Maguire. The book, also titled Wicked is about the origins of The Wicked Witch of the West, the green-faced bad-gal out of the Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (copyright 1909).

When people today have asked "How was it?" My unsatisfactory answer is "good." Would I recommend it? Certainly. Would I rave about it? No, I don't think so. It may be just that it needs to sink in for a while. It may be that I'm past the age and stage (13 or so years old) where this storyline resonates with my soulstrings. I'm sure I'll know more about my reactions after I get the soundtrack and get a chance to study it for a while.

I am vaguely disappointed with the show even while I was very satisfied with the production. The show was neither as catchy and happy as Beauty and the Beast nor as breathtakingly emotional as Rent!. Right now, I barely can pull up a memory of the music, and I saw it not twelve hours ago. Either my brain was coated in teflon or the music just wasn't that catchy.

I am quite willing to believe that we had a first-string cast on stage -- every note was true and there was only one obviously missed synchronization between orchestra and singers. The comedic timing was precise. The physical interactions among actors were beautifully communicated even up to our second tier seats. The lighting was well done (not exceptional and the love scene suffered an odd shadow) and the set was exactly as it should be -- creative, interesting, but not obstructing or distracting in any way.

The music was mostly well done. I have admiration for the orchestra. The solos and duets were great -- physically interesting as well as musically exciting. Unfortunately, some of the choral pieces were difficult to understand, and the end of Madame Morrible's pronouncement was three indistinctly yelled syllables. I had to ask the woman in front of me what did she yell? She yelled "Wicked Witch." I think that could be a bit clearer.

Wicked is a coming of age story that is almost the flip side of Beauty and the Beast. Rather than a pretty and smart ordinary girl and a magical world, Elphaba is an ugly and smart magical girl in an ordinary world. Both Belle (B&B) and Elphaba are looking for a different world than they have, and for someone to understand them. Belle's understanding comes of embracing differences in other people and loving despite/because of them, in the illustration of a "love conquers all" philosophy. Elphaba's understanding comes at the price of her dreams and both her beau's and her rejection of almost everyone as well as the society as a whole.

The musical Chicago failed to capture everyone's imaginations the first time around because society wanted a happy silly upbeat State Fair. In these darker, more cynical times, Wicked has all the right themes. It covers the different opinions of morality, silencing dissent in all kinds of ways, firing teachers for daring to teach their students to think for themselves, imprisoning those who are "different" to the point that the prisoners don't recognize freedom when they see it, the mob-desire for someone to hate/fear, the social need to find someone inferior, the egotistical need to be special, the self-delusion that comes from being told you are special when you aren't, the ostracism that comes from speaking out for what is right, the problems that arise when students are smarter/more gifted than their teachers, the unintended consequences of power without knowledge, and the often-unreasonable expectations we have of our families. All that, and it was entertaining too!

I may add more later. But this should get the first points across...


One interesting thing about the set and the musical's choices for what to take and what to cut from the book was the Time Dragon. The whole top of the proscenium arch was the Time Dragon, complete with glowing red eyes and a head that moved. But it got a whole two sentences mention in the entire play. Never is the origin or relevancy of the Time Dragon discussed or even implied in the play. So why include it at all?

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