Saturday, February 24, 2007
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   Laura Dysarczyk (swing)
Witch's Father/Ozian Official   Matthew Stocke   Midwife   Natalie Daradich (swing)
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

Sitting in the front row of orchestra was quite possibly one of the most amazing experiences I could ever have. To see everything from that up-close. Never mind the fact that I had to look almost straight up to see anything on the staircase on the right side. It was worth the temporary discomfort.

There are little tiny details in addition to the actors' facial expressions that I was able to see. The fact that the performers were about 10 feet away from me meant I could see the intricate details of their costumes. In particular, Elphaba's white jacket (the one she wears for "I'm Not That Girl") has a really beautiful shiny flower pattern that I'd never noticed before. Then there's of course Elphaba's black dress that she wears for most of Act 2. There's actually a lot of color (browns and reds) in the material, and add to that the black threads that hang from her shoulder and across her chest, it's a really intricate piece of work. Huge kudos to the costume designers.

(And this is insignificant, really, but I have to mention that I was close enough to see the freckles on Megan's back.)

In general, while the show was very good, you could definitely tell this was the second show of the day for most everyone. Acting was very, very strong as always, but vocally, they were tired. Megan and John had a couple moments where their voices cracked a bit (and Adam, too, but he's recovering from the flu). Eden was vocally very good, but didn't try very much riffing in the show -- which was fine because her acting made up for it.

There was a great moment during "Popular" when Megan did her full arch-back thing when she says, "Your whole life is about to change, and all because of ME!" It didn't really look different from what I've seen her do before, but for some reason, Eden started laughing. And at first, I thought her laughing was in character as Elphaba laughing at Galinda. But then she didn't stop laughing, and eventually she had to bury her face in her hands. Megan actually tried to stay in character, trying to get Eden back on track. When that didn't work, Megan said, "Now, seriously!" which just made Eden laugh harder. The rest of "Popular" was just priceless. In particular, Megan let out a hilarious "Whoooo!" when she tossed the wand backwards.

"No One Mourns the Wicked": Sitting up close in the front row, I got to see Megan's facial expressions as the scene progressed, gradually becoming more and more distressed. But it's very subtle, otherwise it would be confusing for people who don't know why she would be upset. However, for those of us returning to watch the show, it's a nice little touch that fits with the end. This was one song that Megan's voice cracked just a little, and she also didn't attempt the super high note at the end of NOMtW. Natalie Daradich was great as the Midwife, exactly as I expected to see for the role.

In the room assignments scene, I loved Eden's reaction to Megan's "need they have a point" -- blowing air out of her lips as if it was the stupidest thing she'd ever heard. Adam Wylie was also really cute, trying to butt in on Galinda's little predicament. After he suggests that she say something, he grins and shyly waves at her.

"The Wizard and I": Eden added a few different melodic flairs that I don't think she does all that often, but it was nice to hear. She did a tiny little riff at the end of the "unlimited" bridge ("with me!"), but she did her standard lift at "feeling things I've never felt" that she's done for years. But I loved her energy in the last few lines of the song -- she really did seem like was going to burst from excitement.

"What is This Feeling?": In general, this song got lots of great laughs. Megan is so cute when she sings, "But of course, I'll rise above it" because she raises her hand high with a nice little flair of her pen. Eden got a great reaction from her "blonde" comment. Like opening night, Eden mimicked Megan's high voice at "your voice", and Megan also tried to ward Eden off by shining the mirror of her compact at her -- both of which got a few laughs.

The history class scene was great. Megan's "It's Galinda, with a Gaaaaaahhh" was hilarious, and I really love Timothy's tongue thing when he tries to pronounce her name -- as well as Dioni's reaction to his spitting in her eye. It's also a nice touch when Eden answers Dillamond's question and Megan just smiles at Eden like you would at the teacher's pet.

"Dancing Through Life": I love Megan's silly giggle/jumping up and down/playfully hitting Kris with her purse when Kris sang, "Less, uh, shallow." I also paid a lot of attention to Jenna during DTL. I made mental a note of Jenna watching the other Shiz students dancing during this sequence, and she had this expression of awe mixed with a little jealously that she couldn't be dancing with them. Vocally, Jenna was at the top of her game, singing beautifully with some really nice inflections to her voice that really hinted at the excitement she felt about attending the ball. And as I noted for the first preview performance, I really like the interaction between her and Eden -- they seem very sisterly. At first, Eden seemed incredibly happy for Nessa until Nessa mentioned Galinda's name, at which point Eden became very resentful.

I'm not sure what happened -- if Kris got something stuck in his mouth or something -- but he spent a good amount of time after he and Megan go off to the side to dance (during Nessa and Boq's sequence) wiping his lips on his handkerchief (with his back turned to the audience, but at the angle I was at, I could see him clearly), and he seemed to be laughing with Megan about it. Later when Madame Morrible arrives to give Galinda the training wand, Carol kind of shakes it at Megan, and then when Megan takes it, she violently shakes it in front of her. I just kept thinking that she could put someone's eye out if it ever slipped out of her hand and into the audience.

I love how much emotion there is in the friendship dance sequence, even though there is very little spoken. Seeing Eden and Megan play off of each other, beginning with Galinda making a genuine attempt at making Elphaba feel included in the party, which Eden was at first apprehensive about but then found touching. And then when they both realize they've discovered the common ground between them and start dancing together, there seemed to be a sense of apology and understanding that passed between them. That alone made me a little teary-eyed.

In the sharing secrets scene, Megan was absolutely hilarious with her VERY high-pitched squeal when she says she and Fiyero are going to be married, and the sprawls herself across Eden's lap. And then it was very comical in the way Megan pretended to be deeply hurt when Eden snatched the green bottle back from her, turning away and almost doubled over in pretend-tears. Later in the scene, when Megan asks, "Is it all right if I call you Elphie?", she very playfully poked Eden several times on her shoulder. And when Eden responded back, "Well, it's a little ... perky!", she mimicked Megan, poking her in the shoulder in the same way. Very cute.

"Popular" was funny as usual, but nothing too terribly different (although, Megan was extra awkward with her little leaps across the stage, which was pretty funny). Just like in first preview (but not so much opening night), Megan climbed into Eden's lap to apply lipstick. Ha ha. And then as I mentioned above, Eden broke character and completely cracked up.

In the next scene with Doctor Dillamond being fired from Shiz, Eden was very funny in trying the toss-toss-no-hands thing, and then Kristoffer copying her convulsions-like movements. I never really paid attention to the ensemble's reaction to Dillamond being fired before, but it really ramps up the emotion with some of the students jumping up in objection, and then very reluctantly saying "Good afternoon" when the new professor comes in. Then when Elphaba unleashes her powers again, and Kris says, "Okay, don't move! And don't get mad at me!" Eden grabs her arms kind of awkwardly and says, "Okay!" which was rather amusing.

The lion cub scene unfolded at a brisk pace, but it was just right because of the tension of escaping with the lion cub and the little spat between Elphaba and Fiyero (and a lot of that was Eden ranting). Then the pace screeched to a crawl when Eden went to grab Kris' hand, with both of them staring at their hands for a few moments. When Eden pulled away, Kris stood there stunned and then wiped his hand uncomfortably on his jacket. And then when their eyes met, I loved how their brains and mouths suddenly disconnected (especially for Kris), until Eden touched him ever-so-gently on the cheek. All of this led into "I'm Not That Girl" beautifully, and sitting so close to the stage really allowed me to hear Eden's vocal nuances that made this song so much sadder than usual. And man, apparently that last really low note is not easy for Eden to reach either (I don't think she blinked the entire time she sang it).

In the train station scene, I love the way Adam gets totally fed up and screams, "It's BOQ!" and then very dejectedly says, "And I can't do this anymore." And Jenna really played up her self-pity and anxiety in the whole situation, all by simply uncomfortably pressing her fingers on the wheels of her wheelchair. And then the interaction between Kris, Eden and Megan were absolutely priceless, especially when Kris ran to hand Eden the flowers, just barely acknowledging Megan's presence. And Megan, to draw the attention back to herself, stammered through the decision to change her name -- at which point both Eden and Kris both stared at Megan dumbfounded, until Eden finally jabbed Kris in the ribs.

I admit "One Short Day" has never been one of my favorite songs, but the choreography was very well done -- fun to watch.

"A Sentimental Man": John did a good job with the foreshadowing elements (taking Elphaba's hand at "daughter", touching her cheek at "parental"). His voice did crack a bit when he went up into his falsetto voice at "for I am ... a sentimental man". Chistery's screeches after Elphaba casts the spell are bone-chilling. Eden really did look like she was about to start crying when she first saw the flying monkeys being held captive, and again when she realized the ulterior motives the Wizard had. She also reeled a bit when Megan so happily and eagerly jumped to John's side when he "invited" her to be a part of his plan.

"Defying Gravity": The first exchange between Megan and Eden were ferocious, full of anger. Eden's intensity was just about as high as opening night, but she didn't riff nearly as much as she's done before. There was one little one at "it comes at much too high a *cost*". And then she completely changed the melody at "everyone deserves the chance to fly" (actually I'm not so sure she was even singing at that point because it was all kind of the same pitch).

"Thank Goodness": Megan really shone here, both with acting and singing. Just like opening night, she poked Kris in the cheek at "true, dear?" and pretended to puff her hair at "I couldn't be humbler", both of which were quite funny. Kris also did some great acting here, after he got fed up and walked off the podium. I really liked how he made Fiyero bitter about all the lies being spread about Elphaba, and how that led him to even take a stab at Glinda motivations for not leaving. And then when he finally relented, realizing the easiest course of action at that point was to appease Glinda. And when Kris said, "You know me, I'm always happy", his inability to look Megan in the eyes and everything on his face was saying just the opposite. Megan was quite emotional in second half of "Thank Goodness", letting loose with quite a bit of raw emotion, but then regrouping herself to maintain the illusion.

"Wicked Witch of the East": Adam was so rigid and cold with Jenna's Nessa, and his entire body stiffening up when she touched his arm was a great touch. Jenna again shined brightly here, with flawless singing and lots of raw emotion. Especially after she casts the spell on Boq, and pleads for him to be okay. Again, all the self-pity from her entire life came rushing back, and she continued to be very emotionally charged when begging Elphaba to stay and accusing of looking for Fiyero (rather than releasing the monkeys, as she said). In the transition scene to the Wizard's lair, with Glinda & Fiyero's ballroom, you could see Kris going about the motions of dancing with a rather unhappy expression on his face.

"Wonderful": Eden and John worked well together here. They had a great dynamic going -- a great tug-of-war of sorts between them. Eden was especially intense, particularly when it seems the Wizard has Elphaba backed into a corner. Eden paced back and forth like a trapped tiger that was waiting to pounce, and spat out "I don't want anything from you!" in a very low, barely audible voice. Timothy Britten Parker made it a very sad moment when Dillamond could only bleat and not speak. His body language communicated exactly how much despair he was feeling.

"I'm Not That Girl (reprise)": It's not something I paid much attention to before, but the way that Megan slowly walks on stage, dejectedly taking off the ring from her finger, was almost more emotional than the rest of the song itself.

"As Long As You're Mine": Eden and Kris once again had a great chemistry together, especially when Kris leaned in to kiss her neck at "lost all resistance". Vocally, their voices blend very nicely together. Kris tried a new lift at "it's up that I fell", but I'm not sure it quite worked because I don't think he landed back on the right note he intended to on "fell" and there was a tiny bit of dissonance. But at the same time, if you weren't already fairly familiar with the melody, I doubt you would have noticed. Again, great kiss at the end of the song. =)

Witch Fight: It was like watching Margaret Hamilton on stage for most of this scene. Eden is so great at her Wicked Witch of the West nuances, and even though it's mostly comical, the intensity comes through very strongly. I love Eden's cackle and Megan's "hah!' sounds as she is facing off with Eden.

"No Good Deed": Eden actually didn't do any riffing in this performance here (none significant enough to remember, at least), but she made up for that with some very intense acting. And I've heard it mentioned elsewhere before, but I finally took notice of the slowing down of the tempo at "One question haunts", which made the pain Elphaba felt come through more. And there was one moment where she syncopated the beat for one of the re-iterations of "No good deed goes unpunished" that added a nice flair to the song.

"March of the Witch Hunters": Adam is still a little scratchy from having been sick with the flu, but he sounds a little better than he did opening night. Carol Kane is downright scary when she screeches at Megan. Geez.

Kiamo Ko: Very funny at the beginning when Eden is pacing back and forth, just about fed up with Dorothy's sobbing. I love her tone of voice when she says, "You want to see your Aunt Em (Ehhhhhmmm)? And your Uncle What's-His-Name?"

"For Good": It's always been Glinda to be the more emotional one of the two during this song, and Megan definitely ramps it up. There is just so much sadness in her voice, and in a strange way, the fact that Eden is less emotional makes it more so. (Don't know if that makes sense, but it does to me.)

Melting/Wizard's revelation: The change in Megan's body language after Chistery hands her the green bottle really sets the stage for the rest of this scene. If the audience hasn't figured it out at this point, they at least should be suspicious of something just by the way Megan's body language changes (and if you're sitting close enough to read it, of course). I also really liked John's reaction when he realizes the truth about him and Elphaba -- he falls to his knees, crumpled over, clutching the two green bottles in his hand. It almost doesn't even register to him what Megan is saying to him at that point, which Megan rather comically follows with, "Did you HEAR WHAT I SAID?" at the top of her lungs. And then Megan and Carol's exchange is priceless because of the way she mocks Madame Morrible's arrogant/haughty demeanor. I love how Megan does it.

"Finale": Surprisingly almost no audience reaction when Eden popped out from the trap door. I guess everyone knows to expect it now. =) But Eden and Kris's reunion was very sweet. There was one point when Kris and Eden pulled away from the hug they were holding, and several strands of Eden's wig got stuck in Kris' scarecrow hat. It was a little distracting for me, and I'm sure for Eden and Kris (but Eden waited until she was finished with her block of lines to pull the strands free).