Sunday, June 26, 2005

What Are You Afraid of?

Saw the touring production of "Wicked" this afternoon at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. It's the backstory to "The Wizard of Oz." It explains how the Wicked Witch of the West became "wicked" and how Glinda became "good" -- or at least why they appear to be.

I first saw this show in late '03 or early '04 during its out of town tryout in San Francisco, before it went to Broadway. It was impossible to sit through today's show without mentally comparing it to the performances I saw in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, Kristin Chenowith played Glinda -- a role she was clearly born to play. Her pitch-perfect, perky voice made you love and hate Glinda at the same time. Glinda mostly exists to be pop-you-lar, you see.

And Idina Menzel, as the Wicked Witch, went on to win the Tony for her powerful performance. I still remember being blown away by the strength of her singing.

In Hollywood today, Stephanie J. Block played the Wicked Witch. Ironically, I saw Block playing Liza Minelli in "The Boy from Oz" on Broadway in 2004. And an understudy, Emily Rozek, did a fine job filling a very big bubble (Glinda's preferred way of entering and exiting the stage).

For a touring company, I was impressed by the scope of the production and didn't think it was very scaled down for the road.

The show also explains how the Tinman ended up without a heart and the Scarecrow without a brain. The pre-teens in the audience squealed in delight every time they recognized one of their favorite characters on stage.

However, even though I've seen it twice, I still don't get how the Lion became so Cowardly.

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