Sunday, January 11, 2009


I finally got to see Wicked at the Pantages yesterday. (I know Esther's probably rolling her eyes thinking, "It's 2009 and you hadn't seen Wicked YET?!!!) My book club read Gregory Maguire's book back in 2004 and we were stoked to go see the musical coming soon to the Pantages--but never got around to it.

Tonight is Wicked's final performance at the Pantages--it moves up to San Francisco for a year or two. And my sister Laurie and brother-in-law Dennis are in Los Angeles to supervise the move! That seemed like as good an excuse as any to finally catch the hit musical before it left L.A. once more.

The Pantages Theatre is this old gorgeous art deco theater where, if what's on stage isn't keeping your interest, you can be mesmerized by the ornate ceiling. Thanks to my sister's connections, we were able to score great seats--just ten rows back from the stage. I think the balcony would have given us a better perspective of the spectacle, but (except for the idiot "lovebirds" in front of me who were leaning into each other and blocking my sight line...) we had a great view of the stage.

Eden Espinosa and Megan Hilty, who originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda in the Los Angeles production of Wicked were on hand to close out the L.A. run of the show. Dennis informed us that we were in for a treat with Espinosa, who--other than Idina Menzel who originated the role--was the best of the actresses who had performed the roloe of Elphaba. He wasn't kidding. Espinosa's voice was wonderful. Clear, crisp and strong--she enunciated so well it made the complex lyrics easily understandable.

Hilty also did an outstanding job although her part in the opening number "No One Mourns the Wicked" was overshadowed by the chorus. I've never seen Kristin Chenoweth's portrayal of Glinda, but from watching her as Olive Snook on Pushing Daisies and then seeing Hilty's performance, it's easy to see how Chenoweth defined the role of the Good Witch of the North. Hilty's portrayal of Glinda seemed to be a lot of Kristin Chenoweth--with a bit of Kristen Wiig thrown in for good measure in my opinion...

The Los Angeles production also featured Carol Kane in the role of Madame Morrible and she was exceptional. For those of you wondering where Latka Gravas' SO ended up, there's your answer!

The musical is not quite as dark as the book and is quite funny at times. It ties in more of the standard mythology from the movie version than did the book and, in typical Broadway musical fashion, has a happy ending that the book did not. I guess that's to be expected--you want people to leave the theater humming the score, not sobbing and depressed. Although, the score and songs aren't quite as "catchy" as something from a Lloyd Webber production...

(I don't quite understand, however, how you can depict a magical land with animals who talk and monkeys that fly and wizards and witches--good and bad--and yet a green girl is considered "weird"...)

The set was stunning. After the show, Laurie and Dennis took us backstage to look around. We got to see the amazing wardrobe up close. The details of each costume were exquisite! Laurie said they cost thousands of dollars apiece. We peered into the orchestra pit and Dennis showed us the trapdoor where Elphaba reappears after "melting" and all the wiring and such that goes into making a magical musical.

It was a wicked good time!


  1. Thanks for the shoutout and I'm so glad you finally had a chance to see "Wicked." And you got to go backstage, wow, I'm very jealous! What do your sister and brother-in-law do?

    I saw it on tour, in Providence, in 2007. I just loved all the very witty references to "The Wizard of Oz," the way they worked them into the dialog. And I really like the music. It's in steady rotation on my iPod. I'm a sucker for catchy pop scores, I guess!

    I've never seen Kristen Chenoweth on stage, only clips and she certainly did set the standard. I think every Glinda tries to "do" her in a way. It's a very funny role and almost steals the show for me.

    And I have to admit, I was crying at "For Good." I saw the show at the urging of a blogger with whom I'd struck up an e-mail friendship and hearing that song, about how there are people who come into our lives for a reason, I naturally thought of him. Plus, how great is it that the most tender love song in the musical is about the enduring power of friendship.

    I've since read the novel and it is very different, much darker. (I also found all the different political and religious groups kind of confusing.)

    It's almost like the book writer, Winnie Holzman, who also wrote "My So-Called Life," took the barest outlines of the characters and then remade them into what she wanted.

    Btw, there are two documentaries that give you a behind-the-scenes look at "Wicked" - "Show Business: The Road to Broadway," and the PBS series "Broadway: The American Musical."

  2. Hope I get to see it one day, too, and see Kristen Chenoweth do anything. (At least I got to see Randy Harrison as part of a stellar cast in a world-rocking performance of Waiting for Godot, which I still think about often. I can't imagine how this year's Broadway version could be better. But I digress.)

    I really liked the "Wicked" ep of Ugly Betty and how it was used to advance several storylines. I miss Christopher and Freddy on that show.

    After all the gratuitous "Wicked" references inserted into earlier episodes of Brothers and Sisters - the writers must have had a contest going - I was very disappointed that Kevin and Scotty's wedding featured none. Not even a show tune!

    And "Defying Gravity" and "For Good" are pure gold.

  3. It's okay. I finally saw Phantom only in recent years. It took me THAT long to finally go.

    I didn't love Wicked as much but when I saw it a second time with better actors (Stephanie J. Bloch was my Elphaba) it almost seemed like a different (and better) show. It's amazing what better performers can do to a show.

    But yeah. I'm sure if I saw Idina and Kristen, I would have loved it.

  4. Esther,

    My sister and brother are employed by the Wicked production company. Their job is to supervise the show moves. My sister specifically deals with the orchestra pit.

    For me, the number that sticks in my head is "Popular." The performance of "Defying Gravity" was unbelievable, but my favorite song was "I'm not that girl."


    Since I hadn't seen Wicked, all the B&S reference have gone over my head. I guess I'll have to key an ear out for them in the re-runs.


    I still haven't seen Phantom. Actually my roster of Broadway shows seen is very slim. My sister, however, has seen pretty much all of them--and worked on a bunch as well.

  5. IIRC, all references to Wicked are in B&S season 1, which, to my way of thinking, is the only season worth rewatching.