The touring cast of Wicked is in San Diego at the Civic Theatre this month and I had the opportunity to catch the show for a Sunday Matinee performance. A lot of friends have been very surprised that I haven’t yet seen the show as they know I like to see a lot of shows and usually stay pretty current on the top shows. And despite the long run the show had in Los Angeles, I hadn’t seen it yet. So I made sure to catch it this time around.
Did I love the show? No. Did I hate the show? No. Did I enjoy the show? Yes. Would I see it again? Maybe. So what did I think? Well, let’s just say I never thought it would be possible to like a show that I didn’t particularly care for the songs. I enjoyed the story and the visually stunning presentation of the show, but musically, I just wasn’t really connecting with the music on any level. Despite having owned the cast album for several years now, the only songs I really knew were “Popular” and “Defying Gravity” so I was a little disappointed both were in the first act. I was also fighting off the urge to fall asleep during a couple of really boring songs in the first act like “Dancing Through Life.”
By the time the show reached it’s intermission, I was left wondering how on Earth this show could be as highly acclaimed as it is. It just struck me as being okay, but far from spectacular. It had a couple of good moments, but overall, just felt weak. It was just starting to show promise by the time of “Defying Gravity” which ends the first act as Elphaba’s actions become the defining moment of her life where she takes a stand for what she believes in. But this moment where the show starts to show some life is so late in the first act that I ended up spending the intermission feeling not at all impressed by what I’d seen so far. I had my doubts the second act was going to improve the show, especially since both of the known “good” songs were in the first act (and were really about the only two really good songs in the first act.) So I just hoped I’d make it through the second act awake.
Fortunately, I found the second act to be considerably better than the first act. Even though none of the songs really stood out as spectacular the story line was interesting enough to keep my attention for the rest of the show. The characters showed a lot more dimension as Ephaba becomes a scapegoat for ultimately wanting to do good, and Glinda struggles with knowing the truth and not being able to share it publically. Essentially the second act is much like the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy in that both Darth Vader and The Wicked Witch of the West were evil characters in their respective well known stories, but their backstories reveal them to be well-meaning fallible tragic characters. I ended up really liking that aspect of the story because it was a fresh take on the Wicked Witch, giving the character a nice twist.
By the end of the show, I was suitably impressed by the show, but again, had the rather strange situation where I was really not overly impressed by the songs. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by that as I didn’t like at all the show called Working which was also heavily shaped by Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music and songs for Wicked. (Click here to see my review of Working.) But in a way it’s a little disappointing that the music didn’t strike me as being better than it is, Especially since it’s a mostly sung through show. Overall, I’m glad I saw Wicked. I had a good time, but I definitely don’t think the show was as good as I was expecting.
Click here to visit WickedTheMusical.com website for more information on the show.