Jul 24, 2008

[Theater] Wicked - Los Angeles (Pantages Theatre)

WickedYes, I'm finally getting to writing about some of the other things I did while in Los Angeles other than working and training Americans. On that note, however, I must admit it was fun to be the "expat" for a change.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to have some family still in the area while I was in the US - this was in the form of my "auntie" (You know how that works, right? It's a Filipino thing) who was nice enough to help me get a ticket for the show (practically in front, too!). They even offered to have dinner, take me there (since for some reason they didn't get tickets for themselves) and eventually pick me up after the show. Absolutely sweet, right? Yes, family is love indeed.

So after an afternoon spent at LACMA (I'll write about as well) and a quick dinner at Arby's (my auntie loves their signature sauce) it was off to Hollywood Boulevard to the historic Pantages Theatre for my first official taste of US musical theater.

Man, I was in for a treat beyond words.

For those sadly ignorant of the tale, Wicked is the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West (yes, in Oz terms) became so, well, wicked. If you've only read the official Oz books, then you'll have no idea what to expect from this story since it's not quite in that universe. The story is based on a book of the same name by author Gregory McGuire, who's known for reinterpreting classic fairy tales with more complex and "modern" plot twists.

Like most fans of musical theater living in the Philippines, I've long contented myself to listening to the official soundtrack over and over again to get a good feel for the show along with catching various clips of performances on YouTube or in one extreme case, the entire show recorded illegally as was uploaded to Google Video. Yes, the lengths we go to in the culture-starved Philippines, eh? Thus it was such a mind-blowing experience to finally get to watch the play, even if only in Los Angeles, which will never, ever be the same as New York to any true lover of theater.

rOcky at Pantages Theatre
rOckY at Pantages Theatre

First, the theater itself was gorgeous - it's one of the older ones in the country and for a good number of years was the location of the Academy Awards, so that definitely says something. It gives you that nice old theater feeling without excessively dark shadows or anything like that. I was in love with the ceiling designs and wish that photography inside the premises wasn't so frowned upon, hehe. Then again, I perfectly understand the logic behind the rule, don't get me wrong.

The cast for the night was pretty top-notch as well. Caissie Levy played Elphaba for the night and while she started a bit soft, she definitely ended things on a high note and made sure everyone understood why she got the part. Megan Hilty was an interesting Galinda / Glinda given that she added a bit of an LA spin, from my perspective. Beyond the typically bubbly characterization we've come to love based on Kristin Chenoweth's orignal performance, Hilty threw in a little Anna Nicole Smith for good measure, all the more embracing the stereotypical blonde image that the early Galinda seemed to personify.

Stephanie J.Image via WikipediaWhat is certain is that both of the leads along with the rest of the cast really put a lot into their performance. Plays aren't about just one individual actor or performance but is the sum total of all the pieces coming together and showing itself to be a cohesive unit. I definitely have to give credit to the LA production for such a phenomenal job that gave someone like me more than his money's worth...even though I didn't pay for it myself.

The costumes were just jaw-droppingly breath-taking, I truly have to admit. Being able to see the various performers on stage in their highly intricate robes and outfits really made the difference for me - you just know that you wouldn't feel the same way if you saw this only on video. It's no wonder why they won the Tony Award for Costume Design.

The sets were something else as well, most definitely. there's a lot of stagecraft involved in pulling off a play like this - something that reminds me of the original run of Into the Woods with their revolving sets and such. Of course the most complicated item was the Time Dragon (at least so they say) but then there was a lot more to things than just that one piece of the set. I liked how everything came together and the performance for that evening was top notch - with so many things going on at any one time, mastery of the sets and manipulation of the various pieces was just essential.

Wicked SouvenirsOf course after the show I went apeshit over the official Wicked merchandise and bought a number of items meant to be given away to friends and such. My favorite items definitely have to be the two variant Wicked Glitter Globes that you can wind up to play the melodies of two major songs from the play. The Elphaba version of course plays Defying Gravity while the Galinda version happily chimes along to the tune of Popular.

Needless to say, I definitely enjoyed Wicked and can most definitely see why it got that close to winning the Tony for Best Musical had it not been for Avenue Q. Still, it's amazing piece of work on its own and as long as the casting remains that strong and the costumes and set that intricately beautiful, then any production of this stellar play is bound to deliver.
Zemanta Pixie

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