The magic will never wear off, but my memory isn’t as reliable. So hear ye, a blog post. Wait, let me turn up the Wicked soundtrack first. There. Perfect.
I have loved Wicked the musical for a good many years now. But it wasn’t until two days ago that I fell in love with it.
Let me backtrack a bit. Ever since obtaining a (pirated, teehee) copy of the soundtrack in my much, much, MUCH younger years, I’ve listened to the songs a lot but never actually got to experience the play in a visual sense. So how the play appeared in my mind existed completely, well, just there—in my mind.
I sort of got to perform a bit of it once, at a friend’s debut. We had this (dare I say it myself?) clever idea of tweaking the eighteen-candles tradition into something infinitely more fun—eighteen Broadway excerpts! A good friend (Nina, who’s now singing in operas in Middle Earth) and I sang “What Is This Feeling?” (the one with a lot of loathing in it). I was, of course, Galinda, who remains my favorite character, and to sing “Popular” remains on my bucket list.
I digress, as always. Back to Oz-Manila.
When I stepped into the theatre, my jaw dropped. The stunning mechanical time dragon. The stage itself, made up as giant cogs and gears. That very steampunk stage design. The costumes—oh Holy Mother of Cthulhu. My drool spilled into a bucket, which I luckily happened to have on hand. (Not really, no.)
[Yes, I took that one picture before the show, but none while it transpired. I can’t help feeling that taking photos at shows is a lot like tourists spending their entire tour looking for good photo opportunities. You forget to relish the present in your frantic attempts to create souvenirs of what is soon to be the past.]
The main characters kept up the essence of the original Broadway cast, which was at the same time, I believe, a combined feat of casting and study. The actress playing Galinda, especially, was very Kristin Chenoweth in voice and mannerisms. From afar (our seats were far) we could make believe it was actually Kristin out there, not to take anything away from the Aussie actress playing Kristin-playing-Galinda, who was excellent in her own right in spite—and because—of this.
The ensemble, too, was brilliant. It was only when I began flying off to watch these touring shows that I noticed what a lot of local productions I’d seen lacked. Oftentimes, the ensemble is just that—a chorus, a faceless unit in charge of the background songs and dances. But that’s not the way it’s meant to be. Every face in that “crowd” is important; in fact, every one of them should be an individual character, never mind if this character is not named in the programme. And when they’re effective, you can look at them one by one and know who they are in terms of the story. They sing and dance and interact completely on their character’s terms without compromising the collective choreography and blocking.
[Allow me to digress a little. Having my eyes opened to that is precisely why, in my real-world theatrical pursuits, I’ve always stressed that the cast in the chorus take on their own characters, whether assigned or of their own creation. In The Clockwork Princess, I gave them designations, descriptions: the Investigator, the Law Enforcer, the Time Agent, etc. In Facebooked! I pushed for the chorus characters to be based on Facebook prototype profiles: War Freak, Gossip Girl, and more.]
I like to kid that watching these international musicals isn’t relaxation; it’s research. In all honesty, it’s both. Both a wonderful way to unwind and a complete learning experience. This, folks, is what education should be like. If you live where I live, love musicals just as much, and have seen nothing but local shows, I recommend doing what I do. Save up for it. Plan for it. Make it an event.
Well yes, you might not be able to eat for a month (if you live from paycheck to paycheck like I do), but I guarantee you will not regret it. A bonus: you’ll probably even shed a few pounds from the imposed starvation.