Ask anyone who knows me and most of them will tell you that I'm not a big fan of Broadway shows. The vast majority of these productions are overblown, maudlin affairs featuring storylines rife with rehashed love triangles and barely rudimentary stabs at social commentary. Add to that performers who've been raised in the "when in doubt, belt" school of thought and you have a recipe for disaster (at least in my opinion). There are, of course, exceptions. I've been very pleased by the productions of Chicago, Three Penny Opera, and Cabaret that I've seen. Then again, I believe the first show is quite outstanding, while the latter two are already classics. Heck, I even enjoyed the recent adaptation of Sweeney Todd, although I was not as fond of it as I was with the original.
One learns to adapt to a certain extent.
Then again, perhaps I'm just missing the boat. My experience is limited to say the least, so may haps I should defer to those who've seen more shows and are more deeply immersed in the thriving culture that is New York's Broadway.
Deferring, however, is not one of my strong points...
I'm blathering on about this because Susan kindly took me to see Wicked last night. I've met a number of people who have raved about this show. My friend Marti lists it as her absolute favorite. Contrarily, I've spoken with several people who'd seen it and had a slightly more lukewarm reaction. I myself had heard a couple of tunes off the soundtrack and found myself sitting squarely in the second camp, so I was experiencing some trepidation about actually seeing it.
This was not entirely misplaced.
From a visual and production standpoint, there is no denying that this is an amazing show. The spectacle is... spectacular. The set is elaborate and incorporates any number of trapdoors, moving set pieces, and machinery. There are tons of gears and cogs and such, so any fan of things remotely industrial would enjoy the sights. The lighting is also great; extremely colorful, well placed, and well executed. Additionally, there is a fair amount of harness work, including one section in which actors dressed as flying monkeys swing to and fro, suspended on guy-wiers high above the audience. Fun stuff.
But in the end, the spectacle is just that: spectacle. Yes, it's pretty, but the music, unfortunately, falls flat.
Again, this is purely personal opinion. I was raised on a steady diet of Sondheim, so I prefer my musicals a little more challenging. Wicked's music is standard Broadway fare: major chord progressions, trite lyrics, and plenty of opportunities for young sopranos who don't know any better to show off how loud and high they think they can sing; again, the "when in doubt, belt" school. The woman who played the Wicked Witch herself practically gritted her teeth when reaching for those notes. She did a great job, yet there were times when her tone was overtly piercing. Power to be sure, but little nuance or subtlety.
There were two numbers that I did enjoy immensely, both based on the classic patter-song structure of rapid rhymes and Tin Pan Alley orchestration. Galinda ("The 'ga' is silent...") did a great piece called "Popular", which allowed the actress playing her to really ham it up; a lot of fun in this one. "Wonderful", sung by the Wizard himself, was a variation on the same theme and was likewise very entertaining.
So the evening was by no means unenjoyable, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't check the time at intermission and think, "I have to get through another hour of this?" This is the same reaction I had to Phantom Of The Opera, which is not a good sign. However, I have to say that maybe it was the festive atmosphere or the spectacle or the company, but I did actually have a good time (despite the musical disappointment).
Would I see it again? No. Would I recommend it to someone who wants to have a true "Broadway" experience? Yes, with appropriate caveats dependant on the person. A rube from the East Bumblefuck? Of course, go see it. Enjoy. A sophisticate well versed in the rich and varied history of musical theater? Maybe.
Just leave your adventurous side at door.
"I can fight you with one paw tied behind my back" with:
Daft Punk - Homework
(bringin' da fun back to da punk)
DJ? Acucrack - Sorted
(but not in alphabetical order)
Mos Def - Black On Both Sides
(bigger and deffer)
Massive Attack - No Protection
(Mad Professor just has his way with the MA boys)
Candyflip - Madstock
(the EMF that never was)