Wicked in Seattle at the Paramount

I'm not sure how much of this is my memory and how much has been influenced by stories I was told, but when I saw the Wizard of Oz as a little kid, those flying monkeys terrified me. Especially as the ripped the Scarecrow to bits. Apparently we had to turn off the TV.

I think that's a healthy response. Not the turning off the TV, the being terrified by flying monkeys. Monkeys are not supposed to fly. Evolution has relegated them to running, crawling, walking, and swinging critters. Wings are not supposed to be be part of the equation.

Don't trust anyone who's not afraid of flying monkeys.

Fortunately, they don't terrify the 38 year old 27 year old me in the same way they did the 6 year old version. And I did not have to run screaming from the theater into the Seattle night as the curtain rose on Wicked.

Tonight The GF and I caught the national touring production of Wicked. It's a fantastic show, and the best Broadway production I've seen in Seattle in years.

The show is intense, complicated, dark, and amazingly funny.

It tells the back story of the Glinda the Good Witch and the Elphaba the Wicked Witch, from The Wizard of Oz. It's a show about moral ambiguity, the importance of maintaining a healthy skepticism of what others say, and how appearances are rarely what they seem.

In addition to the witchs' backgrounds, the show answers other questions from the Wizard of Oz, such as how those damn monkeys got their wings, why those ruby slippers were so important, how the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion got the way they are, and just what was up with that freak tornado.

The story telling is excellent. With everything that happens, you would expect the plot to be complicated -- and you would be right. Despite that, I had no trouble following it. It's well paced, and the complicated stuff was clearly articulated. It may have been a little heavy on exposition in parts, but I'm okay with that.

The music and singing were fantastic. Words did get lost from time to time, but not so much that it was impossible to keep up, and they did a better job articulating than in many musicals.

The sets were creatively and effectively used in a small space. Familiar elements changed into other elements over the course of the evening. Even when I knew I was looking at the same set piece used in a different context, it still became a different item.

One of the effects I did not care for though, and I'm not even sure it was an effect. Towards the big climax right before intermission, with noise, lights, and smoke machines going, suddenly I heard the "Whooooooooooooooooop Whoooooooooooooooooop Whoooooooooooooooop" and saw the flashing white lights at the exit signs that all scream "Fire Alarm!" No one moved.

I'm 90% sure that was the theater fire alarm going off. But no one stopped the show, no guests started to leave, and as the song ended, so did the alarm. There was no follow up announcement.

There are a couple things that seem likely to me. Either the smoke machines on stage set off the alarm somehow, or they actually used it as part of the show.

If it's the latter, I have two problems with that. First, it was distracting. Instead of focusing on the show, the fire alarm took me out of the play. I was looking for exits and watching the crowd to make sure we could get out without being trampled. And I was wondering what was going on.

The other problem is that they were, in fact, yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, and we all know that's a bad idea. There was tremendous risk in doing that.

So I'm hoping it was just a coincidental false alarm.

But I got back into the show once the"crisis" was past.

The show is hysterical. Typically heavy shows will have one character or a couple scenes specifically for the comic relief. Everyone gets to take a break for a few minutes and laugh. In Wicked they don't quite do that. Instead, the puns, snappy comebacks, sight gags (Glinda has a great shoe collection) and one liners are spread throughout the show. It's a delicate balancing act and they did a fantastic job of being funny without being silly.

I could probably do a lengthy post everyday for a week discussing the different levels of meaning and themes entwined in the plot, but I'll spare you that for now. Here is a list of just some of themes in the show:

  • Animal rights
  • Value of friendship
  • Gullibility of the public
  • The challenges of getting what you want
  • Appearances can be deceiving
  • Kids can be cruel
  • The risks of following your conscience
  • Risks of jumping to conclusions
  • Following your heart versus doing the "right" thing
The last one is interesting. There are several romantic pairings in the show where one character chooses to be with another because they feel obligated -- not because they truly feel passion. And they don't even realize that's what is happening to them. It's not a main plot point, but recurs through the play. People give up what they want because they feel the owe someone their affection. It's not something you see in many stories and serves to make this one even deeper.

So go. This is a great show. I would suggest reading the story first. I looked it up here before I went to the show. You should be able to follow it without the back ground, but I still find it helpful.

Wicked plays in Seattle through early October.


mcangeli said...

We saw it when it came through atlanta last year. The play was one of the better ones we had seen. Made me want to read the book (which I haven't done yet) but it was interesting to see where the characters (tinman, scare crow and the lion) came from as well as how Glenda came to be the "good" witch and Elphaba the wicked....

It was also interesting to see that the wiz was actually Elpha's father....

My 5 year old loved it and listens to the soundtrack on her iPod (the sound track is awesome as Kristen Chennoweth is Glenda in the original cast recording)

brokenteepee said...

The book was actually a very good read.

I love the music. We moved to the middle of nowhere before I could see the show.

Dorothy said...

Thank you for the wonderful explanation of the show because if it comes to this area Western New York because of your description I'll go see it.

Dorothy from grammology

GreedyGirl1 said...

I saw Wicked last year in NYC yand you're right its an amazing production one of the best ever