Wicked, the musical

We arrived fairly early at the San Jose Center for the Performing arts to see Wicked on Friday and the theater was filling rapidly. The curtain, a map of the land of Oz, and the dragon head above the proscenium promised an interesting experience. By the time the lights went down I did not see an empty seat.

An interesting experience? Well, stunning in fact.

I was not sure what to expect. I knew that the musical was based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. I knew that it originally opened in preview in San Francisco to mixed reviews, but that by the time it reached Broadway the producers made adjustments in such a way that it received rave reviews. I knew that the storyline involved Glinda, the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West before Dorothy arrived in Oz.

What I experienced was a show that grabbed me and carried me every moment along the way. Wicked is a musical with engaging songs, a lot of wit, and plenty of inside Oz references. I could not help but appreciate and respect Elphaba, who became the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda seemed to have received her training from the Valley Girl school of social graces. There are plenty of plot twists, and a backstory that tells us (in this interpretation at least) how the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion got to be the ones we knew in the movie. There are some not-so-thinly veiled references to evils in today’s society. And there is a lot about human relationships, particularly about how a relationship between two women can grow and evolve.

The role of Elphaba is the only one for which the program lists a standby. Not an understudy, of which there were several listed, but a standby. (See the image at the bottom of the page.) I can see why. It a highly demanding, very physical role. Throw in the fact that you are on a national tour, and I can see the need for the main actor to take a break now and then. We saw the standby. She was incredible. I missed the review in the San Jose newspaper, but Terry told me it said that the standby didn’t belt it out as the role called for, but brought out many of the subtleties of the character. She certainly brought out the subtleties, and I thought she belted it out just fine.

When the show was over and we were filing out of the theater I looked at my watch for the first time that evening. It was ten minutes before eleven. That’s two and three-quarter hours (including intermission, of course) during which I had not the slightest impulse to check my watch.

The popular song from Wicked, “For Good,” says:

quoteWho can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

Somehow, in a way I’m not sure I fully understand, after seeing Wicked, I may have been changed for good.

#185381990 / gettyimages.com


3 Comments on “Wicked, the musical”

  1. Tahoe Mom says:

    Nice review. In all my years in theatre I have never seen a “stand-by” listed. I did however see one one time – for some reason Bob Fosse himself stepped into the second act of Jazz for one of the dancers. What a treat!

    • Tahoe Mom, I love that story. I wonder whether he just wanted to get out on stage and kicked out one of the dancers, or whether one of them wasn’t able to continue so he chose to step in himself rather than sending in an understudy.

  2. Tahoe Mom says:

    Mike, this particular dancer didn’t have a large part in Act 2. One dance and we didn’t really realize it wasn’t him. It was in the finale’ when the one black dancer wasn’t present and there was a short white guy whose extension was just a little longer than everyone else’s, whose moves were just a little crisper than everyone else’s that I began to study him carefully. And when the black dancer’s picture appeared and the short white dancer walked across to take the bow for him, I knew ~ I had seen Fosse’s picture enough to recognize him. I think something may have happened – maybe a family emergency. On the other hand, they may have had an every-two-week agreement. Who knows? All I know is, for a few short minutes, I got to see the master himself dance and it was Amazing!!

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