Saturday, March 31, 2007
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.
Even with Eden singing the standard notes for "The Wizard and I" and not doing much in the way of optional notes, it was still one of the best performances in terms of tone quality.
Megan really drew out the "unusually and exceedingly peculiar ..." line in WITF, which was really cute
Eden and Megan are quite a bit more in each other's faces in WITF, and I still really love how Megan wards Eden off with the mirror of her compact
Eden took on a mocking tone with "your precious name" at the beginning of the history class scene. And then she smugly smiled over at Megan when Dillamond notes that she has a point.
Megan giddily leaping around Adam to get to Kris after he arrives at Shiz
Megan really seems to like hitting people with her purse -- but my favorite is when she playfully smacks Kris in the chest when he says "less ... uh, shallow".
Kris was so cute when he did that first really slow spin at the beginning of DTL, and when he turned around, he said, "Eh?" to Megan (as in like, "How was that?"). Ha ha!
A great little touch during DTL when Megan sings, "It's really, uh, sharp! Don't you think?" and pointing the tip of the hat in Eden's face, forcing her to draw back slightly. Ha ha ...
Megan throwing herself almost flat on the bed when she says "it's not fair, I told you a really good one" and pretends to be deeply hurt.
Megan took much longer in preparation of second ball gown transformation attempt. She mutters, "Okay, let me try this again ..." and takes her legs out into a ridiculously deep pliť. And then she throws so much energy into the flick of her wand and screams "BALLGOWWWWWWNN!" that you almost expected that something was really was going to happen.
"I'm Not That Girl" was nice -- nothing special to note, though Eden's voice did have a major scratchy moment just before the bridge of the song.
Megan either didn't sing or her mic went out when she was supposed to sing "it's all grand" in OSD.
Somehow, I've never noticed before how Elphaba and Glinda dance along with the ensemble while "watching" Wiz-o-mania. Very cute the way Eden and Megan do it.
Phillip Spaeth (u/s Chistery) was very cute and did some different things. One that I liked was how he very shyly grabbed John's coat and put it over his face and tried to look through it at Eden.
"Defying Gravity" was impressive -- Eden's acting was fierce, and she did that weird melody change that I saw her do on 2/24 at "everyone deserves the chance to fly" -- which I still think is kind of weird because there's actually no melody at all. But sure, okay.
Adam just seems to get colder and colder with his "Yes, Madam" after Nessa asks him to call her Nessarose.
Jenna's voice rings so piercingly (in a good way) when she sings "we deserve each other", and I love how emotional she gets when Elphaba leaves and tries to collect herself when Boq wakes up.
Even though it couldn't clearly be heard since Eden tends to drown out Kris' voice, Kris added a VERY nice riff on the last note of ALAYM, which would have been really awesome to hear clearly.
Eden was incredibly vicious in the witch fight scene, and she really conveyed how distraught she was about Nessa's senseless death. Then when she started ranting about how Fiyero had chosen to be with her, she slowly stalked after Megan in a intensely relentless way that was actually kind of scary. It actually made Megan's slap have that much more of a punch (if you'll forgive the slight unintended pun).
"No Good Deed" was not nearly as fierce as other performances of Eden's I've seen, but it was still really impressive. There is, however, one thing that's always bothered me this song with several different Elphabas: the vowel sound in "why" at "maybe that's the reason why" is not one that is conducive to singing, and Eden is one of several Elphabas I've heard that doesn't get it to resonate quite right. (Although, in the evening performance, halfway through the note she changed the shape of the vowel to make it sound better, so at least she can do it.)
Megan wasn't overly emotional by any means, but still, I love the "heavy" feeling she puts in the beginning of "For Good"
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.
Also, having sat so far house left, I could see into the wings and some of the off-stage stuff that goes on:
monkeys getting harnessed
when Kris tosses one of the students' books off-stage, there's stagehand there to catch it
when Megan tosses her wand off-stage, there's a stagehand there to catch it, too, but with the amount of force Megan tosses it, it actually wouldn't be safe to try to catch it without letting it hit the ground first, so he lets it bounce before trying to get it
stagehand removing Glinda's huge rack of shoes from the set
stagehand putting the broom onto the line and pumping dry ice "smoke" onto it just before it drifts on-stage
Kris climbing up onto the ladder so that he could swing in on the rope
there was even one point where, through an open door in the wall, I could see Kris getting his costume changed (out of his ALAYM clothes into his Ozian guard uniform) at the beginning of the witch fight scene