I will never forget the first time I heard the song "Defying Gravity". It was a Sunday morning in September, 2003, in the middle of Times Sq. during the annual "Broadway on Broadway " celebration when most all of the current and future musicals do one number for a crowd of about 70,000 theater fans.
Out strolled Idina Menzel who I remembered so well for her role in Rent. She was wearing a simple black shirt with the logo of WIcked on it. She stood alone on the stage and started to sing and the crowd became silent in admiration of the performance and the music. One could say it was a preview of coming attractions.
One of my biggest Tony disappointments occurred when the musical Avenue Q defeated Wicked for the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2004. Not that I didn't enjoy the "Q", I strongly believed it should have stayed Off-Broadway (where it currently resides very successfully).
I have been fortunate to see the Stephen Schwartz musical twice on Broadway and once at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre. I was really looking forward to the tour now ensconced at the Kennedy Center for the entire summer. I was not disappointed.
The Opera House was filled to the rafters with many standing-room only patrons. There was applause as soon as the house lights went down.
I was unaware that the Kennedy Center offers SRO tickets for $35 if the performance is sold-out and you can even purchase them over the phone at 202-467-4600. With the high cost of theater tickets, this is a nice alternative for theater patrons. I even saw some families standing together in the rear of the orchestra.
Wicked's success starts with its all-star team of contributors. It features set design by Tony Award winner Eugene Lee, costumes by Tony winner Susan Hilferty (you can see examples of her costumes up close in the lobby of the theater), lighting by Tony nominee Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony Meola. One interesting aspect of the set design concerns the huge dragon over the stage. I recall reading that it was designed and built prior to the book of the musical and even though it has nothing to do with the story, was kept anyway.
Director Joe Mantello (nominated this year for a Tony for Best Actor for The Normal Heart) has won two Tony Awards and you can see why.
Conductor P. Jason Yarcho travels with the show as well as Associate Conductor/Keyboard 1: Matt Doebler, Keyboard II Christy Crowl, and Guitars Louis Garrett. The remainder of the musicians are with the superb Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.
This tour has plenty of incredible talent. Starting with the actress who has played the part of Elphaba more than any other, Dee Roscioli. She has the voice, humor and strength necessary for this complex role under green make-up. Yes, she's green and one of the major aspects of the musical is its dealing with racism. At the beginning of the show when she is born, people are mortified with how different she is. By the end of the evening, her color for all intents and purposes has disappeared.
Her partner Glinda played by Amanda Jane Cooper is hysterical in her role. She not only sings the cute "Popular" but the moving "For Good", a touching duet she sings with Roscioli.
Wicked is probably one the best family musicals in a long time. It is NOT just for young girls. The theater was filled with families and men and women of all ages. It is also one of the few musicals when you will be humming the beautiful Schwartz melodies on your way out.
Wicked runs until August 21, 2011. For tickets call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org. Do not wait. Best availability is during the week.
Visit facebook.com/kennedycenter for behind-the-scenes news, news and special offers and www.wickedthemusical.com.
You can purchase the CD for $25 or the 5th Anniversary edition for $35.
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