Saturday, September 12, 2009

Variations on a theme

Nerd Brigade Part II: Electric Boogaloo is currently in progress. The guys are happily fighting kobolds, attempting to throw off a case of the plague, and eating pizza like there's no tomorrow. Many of their comments are highly amusing, but I'm not sharing them here.

My mother is coming to visit very soon (hi Mom!). I've managed to procure some tickets so that she can go see the national touring production of Wicked at the Paramount while she's here. Mom's never seen Wicked... this will be my third time, because I'm kind of an addict, and I'm wondering how it will compare to the others (the first at the Gershwin in New York in 2005, the second at the Pantages in L.A. in 2008).

One of the most interesting things -- for me, anyway -- about seeing multiple stagings of the same play or musical is being able to observe the way a particular role is interpreted by different actors. Though Glinda and Fiyero can be interesting roles, I'm always most curious to see what actresses will do with Elphaba. By the time I saw Wicked at the Gershwin, Idina Menzel had already left the role, so I never got to see her perform -- but those who did have described her interpretation of the character as restrained and aloof, but capable of great passion. The first time I saw the show, Elphaba was being performed by Shoshana Bean, and her interpretation was completely different. Her Elphaba was an optimist -- someone who, despite being mistreated and shunned her entire life, seems to regard each new opportunity as a chance to start fresh; someone who uses self-deprecating humor in an attempt to hide it when she is wounded by a cruel word or action; someone who sees the humor in a lot of life's absurdities; someone who is still doing her best to be authentically herself even though she is continually being made to pay for it. Bean's voice is energetic and expressive, and she sold "Defying Gravity" so thoroughly that it gave me delighted chills. I can't hear anyone perform the song now without comparing it to hers.

At the Pantages, we saw Teal Wicks as Elphaba. Her interpretation focused on the angry, exercised side of the character; she moved with plenty of energy, bristled easily, and sang with passion and fire. The "Defying Gravity" point of the show, where she decides to live by her own rules for good and all, was not a great leap because she portrayed the character as already being three-quarters of the way there from her very first day at Shiz. Her Elphaba was a much less sympathetic character, but she didn't take any guff from anyone.

I know next to nothing about Donna Vivino, who's slated to play Elphaba when we attend the show on the 19th. Looking forward to seeing her do her thing, though, and to see her particular variation.


MarieC said...

We're going to Wicked on the 26th. Never seen it before!

Soozcat said...

Oh, I hope you enjoy it!