Broadway Show #2: Wicked

On the occasion of my 39th birthday, we finally went to see Wicked, something that was on my list of things to do for a couple of years.

Wicked lives at the Gershwin Theatre on 51st and Broadway, which seats about 2,000 and is home to the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

The set design and special effects are amazing! The stage is framed by enormous gears and clock parts, with the giant red-eyed, fire-breathing Time Dragon, animated and spewing smoke in between acts from above. The clockwork-themed set pieces move around the stage via tracks in the floor. The lighting was unbelievable—the rain looked real! (Look closely and you’ll see the lights hanging over the audience are tiny witch hats.) I felt a little sorry I didn’t pay more attention in my theatre lighting class.

For the few who aren’t familiar, Wicked is the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and her friendship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. In this production, Elphaba was played by Dee Roscioli and Glinda by Katie Rose Clarke. Both were really exceptional. While the singing was fantastic, it was their acting that really impressed me. All of the actors did a great job. I was least impressed by Fierro (Andy Karl) and Boq (Alex Brightman), who seemed part of the production only as an afterthought. There is a definite channeling of Kristin Chenoweth by Clark, although I suspect Glindas the world over are more Kristin-esque than not.

If you’ve read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I warn you…this musical is considerably different. It is far more light-hearted than Gregory Maguire’s book. There are some very witty, very funny moments. While it does touch on the discrimination of the Animals, much of the underlying political intrigue and competing religious ideology is completely missing. In fact, there is no explanation for the Clock of the Time Dragon even though it plays a huge role in the set design. However, I liked it very much and remain completely enamored of Elphaba.

The ending: wholly unexpected.

Norma’s Rating: 8 stars

Broadway Show #1: The Lion King

Thanks to Mike’s Aunt B’s granddaughter’s band director, we were able to get free tickets to see The Lion King tonight at the Minskoff Theatre. Despite having read very good things about the production, I wouldn’t have chosen The Lion King to be my first ever Broadway show. Still, I’m grateful for the tickets and I’m glad we had the opportunity to go.

The Minskoff Theatre is huge, by any standards. We were in the back row of the mezzanine–literally in the last row. It was an impressive vantage point for viewing a show with such extravagant effects. It gave us a good view of the moving floor that helps create so many illusions during the show. From further down in the theatre, it might have seemed even more magical, but I was glad to see how it all worked.

The lighting design, sets and costumes are really extraordinary, so I would recommend the show solely based on those things. Also, the acting/singing/choreography are very good–and it’s no small feat to make people operating fake animals “disappear.”

The audio, though, was really loud–so loud that there were times I couldn’t understand what was going on. For that reason, I was going to give The Lion King five stars. But then I bumped that up to eight because it was so amazing to watch. But then there was that weird “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” ballet thing, so I took my score back down to six. But then I liked the South African baboon lady so much, I gave the show one more point.

Norma’s Rating: 7 stars