I'll talk about the show in a minute, but I want to describe background details first that made the show extra special. First, the Pantages is this amazing theater that was remodeled some few years back to its original art deco splendor. Out in front were some of the celebrity stars that line the Hollywood "Walk of Fame," including my mom's octogenarian hero Carol Channing.
To this coolness was added extra spectacle when we learned that Carol Kane was starring in Wicked as "Madame Morrible"! It was great to see her do her stuff live, and to hear her unmistakable voice and comedic timing.
But an additional star moment was still in store. As I looked across the aisle and up two rows from our eighth row center seats (!), I saw Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen (and son?) out for the evening! His legs were stretched into the aisle (he is incredibly tall) and she looked gorgeous. Most audience members didn't seem to recognize them, though one woman ran up for autographs. I decided not to bother them with another request. (I've always loved Steenburgen since 1979's Time After Time with ex-husband Malcolm McDowell!)
Then, of course, was the show itself. The sets were an ornate and gorgeous spectacle. The giant dragon with his red lighted eyes and movement at crucial powerful moments was amazing, though did not seem to have any relationship to anything going on in the show. I don't think Oz was mentioned as actually having dragons or mythical creatures, really. Just talking, humanlike animals that were being increasingly oppressed and silenced. Hmm.
The costumes throughout were also gorgeous and spectacular. The ensemble had many wonderful changes of character and costume, from the Les Miz-ish street ensemble at the beginning to the Rocky Horrorish Emerald City denizens and their green spectacles. I imagine it was great fun to design all this for the costumer and set designer.
The acting (including leads that had already done the roles on Broadway) was strongest when comedic, but the singing was glorious. The two leads, Eden Espinosa and Megan Hilty, could belt like nobody's business, and I do adore Broadway belters. Kristoffer Cusick as Fiyero was, to me, the weak link, with a weak boyband singing style and cockiness his talents did not merit.
The music itself was a bit less enthralling than the set and ambiance of the show. Stephen Schwartz (of Pippin and Godspell fame) is not one of my favorite composers. You could feel the Pippin-esque quality of several songs, and this didn't move me. "Popular" is incredibly cute, "I'm Not That Girl" is sweet, and "Defying Gravity" has a catchy hook. (Chad liked "No Good Deed," though I cannot remember the melody being strong, just the message of the words. Suffice it to say: the concept of the show (based on a novel) is compellingly theatrical and familiar--yet with the new message that wickedness is about the perspective from which you view it. I definitely see why it is so successful, and even a few memorable tunes is more than many composers can give us. And he wrote "Colors of the Wind," which is cheesy Disney, I know, but I do love the melody. A nice Jewish boy made good (but why a Jew wrote Godspell is something I guess I'll have to research if I really want to know).
I will add that the show definitely felt like it could only have been staged in a post-Harry Potter world, with images, characters, setting, and mood that really felt Potterish (both novels and films). The many echoes (of Potter, Pippin, Rocky Horror, and even Les Miserables) did bother me a bit, left me feeling the show was leaning on too much else too obviously. But it was still a wonderful night and I'm glad I got the chance to see such a strong production.