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Wicked

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 (opening/press night)
8:00pm
Pantages Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Elphaba   Eden Espinosa   Glinda   Megan Hilty
Fiyero   Kristoffer Cusick   Madame Morrible   Carol Kane
The Wizard   John Rubenstein   Nessarose   Jenna Leigh Green
Boq   Adam Wylie   Dillamond   Timothy Britten Parker
Chistery   Peter John Chursin   Witch's Mother   Gina Starbuck
Witch's Father/Ozian Official   Matthew Stocke   Midwife   Linda Kerns
             
Ensemble   Angela Ara Brown, Dioni Michelle Collins, Courtney Corey, Michael Drolet, Melissa Fahn, Amanda Flynn, D.J. Gregory, Zach Hensler, Lindsay Janisse, Adam Lambert, Alexander Selma, Terrance Spencer, Eric Stretch, Brooke Wendle
             

Okay, so this wasn't one of my planned trips to see Wicked. But a strange turn of circumstances suddenly freed up this Wednesday evening, so I thought, "Why not?"

And even though I got stuck with a seat far, far, far right, I'm so glad I went.

Yes, it was not at all like the first time seeing Wicked live, and there will never be an experience like that again, but in so many ways, this show was so much better. For one, the first preview performance I saw the week before -- while it was good -- you could tell everyone was holding back. Particularly if you are familiar with what these actors are capable of. I knew that if there was going to be a night when everyone let loose and gave 110%, it would be opening/press night. With the press and all the celebrities invited, what reason is there not to go all out?

And go all out, they did. The entire ensemble was very energetic, very dynamic, and in general brilliant with the way everything was presented on stage. Starting with "No One Mourns the Wicked", it felt electric. It helped a lot that the audience was high on anticipation, and the cast fed off that energy. The feeling of exuberant celebration could be felt both on stage and in the audience. Then, Glinda's entrance. Megan got huge applause as the bubble lowered into view, and she very humorously waved it off. And when she began to sing her opening lines, I could tell immediately that she had ramped up her energy as well (as compared to first preview). Toward the end of "No One Mourns the Wicked", when Glinda faces the question of having been the Wicked Witch's friend, Megan did an excellent job reeling from the question, stammering and searching for the best response, and then carefully admitting that she was. And then she set the stage beautifully for the flashback to Shiz. Along with the students gradually appearing on stage, you could almost physically feel being drawn backwards through time.

Then Eden made her entrance, running downstage with the brightest grin on her face, full of hope. The blocking for "Dear Old Shiz" is one of the places that has been changed from the original -- there are fewer separate face-to-face encounters Elphaba has with the rest of the students, but Eden still displays how she is so quickly let down that her green skin sets her apart from the rest of the students. Megan's entrance atop all her luggage was priceless (even though I couldn't see her until she'd come all the way in).

Eden really stuck with the frustrated, angry tone in response to the students all staring at her, and yet she also has a very sweet and caring relationship with Jenna's Nessarose. Carol got lots of applause upon her entrance as well, and I really like the way she reacts to seeing Elphaba for the first time and for the rest of the scene -- her Morrible is truly frightened and taken aback by Elphaba's green appearance and tries to keep as much distance from Elphaba as possible. It wasn't until Elphaba lost her temper that her Morrible changed, seeing her in a new light.

Eden's "The Wizard and I" was fiesty, and while most of it was fairly standard in terms of her voice and acting, she took the lift toward the end of the song even higher than I think she typically did on Broadway (and certainly higher than preview night). It gave me chills and an insurmountable sense of awe.

"What is This Feeling" was funny, but actually not as funny as first preview. It got good laughs at Megan's "unusually and exceedingly peculiar" line, and Eden's "blonde" comment got some applause. Choreography was clean. But otherwise pretty standard.

The history class scene was all right. Eden was again very angry, which made Megan's "artichoke" comment hilarious (especially since she kind of drew it out a little longer). "Something Bad" was nothing terribly special, but again, like first preview, you really got the sense that Morrible had some ulterior motives.

Fiyero's arrival was cute, and again, Eden angry. Adam Wylie is so funny running after Megan, and then pausing to step up onto a higher part of the stage to be taller than her. That was funny.

"Dancing Through Life" was really well done. Excellent choreography execution, especially from Kristoffer whose movements were very sharp and crisp. I like the way he moves, and I love his voice (so effortless). Again, Eden was angry about the "cultish social gathering" and that Galinda helped Nessa, but Eden definitely softened a lot when Jenna showed just how much it meant to her. The Ozdust Ball scene was good, too, with Megan really looking like she wanted to crawl into a hole when Eden showed up with the black hat. Which made the friendship dance sequence quite touching.

The sharing secrets scene was all right. "Popular" was probably actually funnier first preview night, but Megan was definitely vocally stronger here. And it was nice touch when Megan bopped Eden in the face with Eden's braid before undoing it. The toss-toss sequence was funny as always, but the ball gown sequence was downright hilarious. The entire time Megan was waving her wand her first attempt, Eden just looked at her sideways, with a somewhat put-off expression that said, "You've got to be kidding me." And then Megan practically threw herself at Eden when she screamed "BALLGOOOOOOOOWWWWWN!" the second time. Ha ha. The end of "Popular" was great, and Megan put some great oomph into her last note.

The lion cub scene was good, with Eden looking like she was going into convulsions, and Kristoffer copying her (although, I still like his high-pitched voice "toss-toss!" mockery more). Once Elphaba and Fiyero make their escape with the lion cub, the rest of the scene unfolded at a rather brisk pace. Eden was talking really fast, which again stemmed from anger. But that made the moment that she and Kristoffer touched hands all the more electric. "I'm Not That Girl" was sad, and Eden's voice was beautiful throughout the song. But nothing terribly unique.

At the train station, Adam screamed, "IT'S BOQ!" really loudly, and then said really softly, "and I can't do this anymore" in such a way that broke my heart. Megan in the rest of the scene was funny, and oh-so-blonde. She had this incredibly distraught look on her face when she said, "Oh, this must be what other people feel like!"

"One Short Day" was good, and I especially liked the full-on tumbling they did at the beginning. Pretty impressive to pull a layout on an non-spring-loaded, unpadded surface. A fun song all around, even if it's not one of my favorites.

Meeting the wizard and "A Sentimental Man" were all right. I think there just isn't enough personality written into the Wizard's character, and much of that has to be created by the actor. John Rubenstein seems to be on the right track to getting there, but he hasn't fully developed it yet. (More on that when I get to "Wonderful".)

"Defying Gravity" was terrific. Eden really played up how desperate she was to do what she felt was necessary. She ended up yelling quite a few of the lines in DG, but it actually worked quite well because it really illustrated the intensity of her feelings. She really didn't need to riff any of those lines because I think her acting says a lot more. And toward the end, after defying gravity, she did a couple nice riffs (but nothing too crazy).

"Thank Goodness". Megan got a good round of applause with her Evita-like stance, and it was a good 10 seconds or so before she said anything. Megan had a lot of gusto singing in this scene

"Wicked Witch of the East":

"Wonderful": John had a little trouble finding the little clip for Elphaba's broom, and after fiddling with it blindly for a couple seconds he gave up and tried to lean the broom against the psuedo-wall, which of course didn't work, and the broom hit the floor.

"As Long As You're Mine": Very sweet and tender. Both Eden and Kris had a few small riffs here and there, and man, their kiss at the end was hot!

Witch fight: Very emotionally charged, but still comical. Eden got a good round of applause for "... and now that wretched little farm girl has walked off with them!" and of course the "by bubble" comment. And Eden had a great Margaret Hamilton moment with a high-pitched tone of voice for "But it's happened!" And then Kris did a Tarzan-like scream when he swung in.

"No Good Deed": Wow, Eden was intense. She poured every ounce of energy she had into her acting and singing, and it was flawless. A few small riffs here and there (and she did her high riff with "FiyeroOOOOO!" and really nice one at the very end at "again"), but what really came through with her voice was the emotion she put into the lyrics and the dynamics she put in her voice.

[ This may remain incomplete because it's been too long now. =( ]