Live Theater Review: Wicked at the Pantages
I bought my girlfriend two tickets for Wicked at the Pantages Theater last Thursday in Hollywood. It closed on March 15th, so we were fortunate to see one of the last shows. (We almost didn’t make it due to the massive traffic jam caused by President Obama whenever he comes into town. Everyone else’s plans be damned, I guess.) I’m glad we made it, because we both had a blast.
Wicked, for those readers who don’t know, is a Broadway smash hit that tells an alternative story of The Wizard of Oz. Its primary focus is on the relationship between Glinda, the Good Witch, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s a completely different story than the Judy Garland musical. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but it’s split in two, just like the play is split into two Acts. The First Act is a “typical” high school coming-of-age tale set in a magical land. The Second Act is an alternative telling of the famous Wizard of Oz story.
Fun fact: Idina Menzel, now famous for her role as the Ice Queen in Frozen, was the original Wicked Witch on Broadway.
- The story is very unique. Wicked turns the primary antagonist from a wildly popular story into a sympathetic, yet misunderstood, protagonist. The play uses high school story conventions and the audience’s existing knowledge of The Wizard of Oz story to accomplish this. The story is very clever; I found myself grinning quite often at the alternative paths and liberties this story takes. I’m sure that recasting the Wicked Witch as a hero was no easy task, but it works here.
- The two leads were both excellent. The actress who played Elphaba was especially fantastic, and the highlight of the show. She played nerdy and shy equally as well as she played bold and scheming. Her singing voice was phenomenal, it gave me chills on several songs. Glinda was laugh out loud hilarious as the school’s spoiled bimbo, and her transformation was touching.
- The supporting characters all did a fantastic job. At first, I was afraid that the male love interest would just be a one-dimensional version of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, but I was quickly proven wrong. I can’t think of any weak links.
- The art was gorgeous. This includes the stage scenery, the special effects, the props, and the costumes. All were of the highest quality and I couldn’t look away. The Wizard’s mechanical head was especially impressive.
- This pro could have easily been a con if it wasn’t done right: The message was actually a very political one. Surprisingly so. Wicked was written during the Bush II era and there are more than a few jabs at his presidency and the War on Terror. I was a bit surprised, but they didn’t feel preachy or shoehorned in. They were all funny. The message to stand up to fearmongering is an important one, and one we still need to keep in mind in today’s political climate. “Question authority” is another message that Wicked touched on.
- I hate to say it, but the music was a bit forgettable. It’s a week later, and I only remember two songs. It’s not bad music, per se, it’s just not very catchy. (The exception, of course, is the song Defying Gravity. Elphaba gave me goosebumps when she hit the high, sustained notes.) The music from plays like Phantom or Les Miserables is just more “classic.” I guess it’s an unfair comparison.
- The First Act was a bit too long, especially since Act II was far more interesting. Act I ran about an hour and a half while Act II was about an hour. This is a minor gripe.
- Last, although I enjoyed Glinda very much, there were a few moments when I thought she was a bit over the top and chewed the scenery a bit. Again, a minor gripe; she was fantastic overall.
If it comes to your town, I can highly recommend going to see Wicked. It’s funny, it’s touching, and it has a great message. It’s fun for children as well as adults, though I think the adults will have more fun. I think what will make or break your performance is the casting of the two leads. There’s a lot of weight put on those two women’s shoulders, and they handled it will flying colors in the show that I had the pleasure to see. Top rate entertainment, well done.
Story: ★★★★★ of 5
Acting: ★★★★ of 5
Music: ★★ of 5
Comedy: ★★★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★★★ ½ of 5
Live Theater Reviews
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