Wicked

Saturday, March 31, 2007
2:00pm matinee
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   Phillip Spaeth (swing)   Witch's Mother   Laura Dysarczyk (swing)
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
             

I got another opportunity to sit in the front row, winning lottery for the second time. This time I was seated in orchestra left center, which gave me an interesting perspective on some parts of the show.

Having just recently seen the show on Broadway, I was eager to come back to L.A. to see "my" cast again. (I had fun seeing it in New York, but the L.A. cast has and always will have a very special place in my heart.)

General comments first:

Eden Espinosa: Wow, she was fierce. She didn't do very much riffing or really much ornamentation in her singing, but that was perfectly fine. And with the way that she did approach her singing, it was very clean and still extremely powerful. There were a couple times where her voice got a little scratchy, but it really didn't take away from her performance at all.

The only thing that I started really thinking about, though, was how some of her gestures felt rather unnatural and/or rehearsed. After having seen Julia Murney and the incredible details she puts into her facial expression, body language, blocking, etc., I'm now noticing how some of what Eden does just doesn't come across as natural reactions. I mean, I know some of it does have to be exaggerated in order to carry to the back of the theatre (which, here, is quite a bit larger than the Gershwin and everything has to be taken a little farther), but it should still seem natural from the front row. (And actually kind of miss Julia's way of standing in the rain in INTG and shaking the water off the umbrella. Those were my favorite little touches her hers.) Anyway, not to say that Eden's acting is bad by any means because she has some amazing moments, but she could do a little more.

Megan Hilty: Just when I thought she couldn't be any funnier (without taking it over the top, although I can easily see how some people would think she is over-the-top), she once again had me doubled-over laughing. Nothing particularly new per se, but she just took a few things a little farther. And you can totally tell that she's have loads of fun doing it. There were a few times when you could hear her laughing after her lines. She's quite a bit more bubbly than the last time I saw her, going deeper into that extreme "dumb blonde" stereotype, which also is really funny. And I just realized that I focus on Act 1 Megan a lot, but Megan is also really great with the deeper emotions Glinda feels in Act 2. (I'll get into this more in the review of the evening performance.)

Kristoffer Cusick: Everything was right on with his singing, dancing, and acting. I really love watching how Kris' Fiyero transforms from being "shallow and self-absorbed" to being sensitive and considerate, all because of him having met Elphaba. I'll get into how Kris' timing played a huge role in how the train station scene plays out now, but in general, I noticed how there are moments elsewhere where he's letting the moment linger a bit longer, or taking longer to find the right words -- just slowing down the progression of a scene to let it have more of an impact. As always, the complexity of what Fiyero feels is at its peak at the beginning of Act 2, and I love how Kris conveys it. Especially during the transition scene from "Wicked Witch of the East" to "Wonderful" where we get a glimpse of Glinda & Fiyero's engagement ball. Kris and Megan are dancing, but Kris has this completely distant expression on his face and he hardly looks into Megan's eyes at all. His and Eden's "As Long As You're Mine" was amazing, and their chemistry together bubbled with so much passion and joy. Kids, close your eyes. (Okay, not really, but ... damn.)

Jenna Leigh Green: It was a little weird seeing her after seeing how extremely pissed off Cristy Candler's Nessarose can be, and even though Jenna isn't nearly that intense with her acting, there's still a lot of pent up anger in her Nessa. She's practically seething, and even almost enjoying the moment she breaks the news to Elphaba that their father is dead, even though it pains her as well. I love watching her during the early parts of "Dancing Through Life" because she watches all the other Shiz students leaping and dancing in ways that she never could, and Jenna watches with both awe and jealousy.

I feel like I have to recount the awesomeness that is the train station scene now -- a few little tweaks here and there and it's both really funny and full of things left unspoken.

Just as Megan sees Kris enter and waves for him to come over, Eden starts to walk away uncomfortably. But Kris calls for her to wait, and as he hands her the flowers, their eyes lock and Kris' words are suddenly kind of distant when he says, "I'm happy for you." And then after Megan chimes in about how she's happy, too, there's a rather long pause before Kris says, "Listen, I've been thinking ..." After getting a little thrown off by Eden saying, "Yes, I heard!", Kris really seems to have trouble finding the right words to say and manages to get out, "I think about that day a lot." Eden gives him a small smile before she very softly says, "So do I." And quickly Megan, seeing this going on in front of her, immediately chimes in, "Me, too ..." And then she starts rambling about changing her name, at which point Kris and Eden kind of stare at her confused. When she finally announces that it's "Glinda", Kris and Eden stare at her even more dumbfoundedly for a few moments before Eden jabs Kris in the ribs. Then while Kris scrambles for something to say, Eden puts on this HUGE mock-surprised expression on her face (one that says, "Wow, that's so wonderful!") -- this had me cracking up. Then after Kris says, "That's very admirable of you ... Glinda ...", he takes a one step back, pauses, and looks at Megan and then Eden for a graceful way to exit, and fails. Megan tries to say something stop him from retreating but she, too, fails. Finally, after another really long pause, Kris wishes Eden good luck and then finally runs off.

There was just all kinds of awkward there, and it was all so well played out by Kris, Eden and Megan. I don't think my description of it does it justice.

Random observations:

Also, keep in mind that most of the above applies to the evening show as well (which will be posted later). It was like this matinee was their warm-up for the evening.

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Also, having sat so far house left, I could see into the wings and some of the off-stage stuff that goes on: