A Wicked Surprise

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For the past few weeks, Lois and I have mentioned to each other that we were itching to see Wicked again. This was probably more true for me, but I think she wouldn’t have minded too much. That said, we did nothing about that itch. I didn’t even check for ticket availability online, even just for fun.

Over the weekend, good friends of ours called to say that they were finally ready to take the Wicked plunge (we had been telling them for a while what lunatics we are with regard to this show). They asked us what might work in our crazy schedule. We offered up the upcoming Wednesday (last night) as the only day we could do it in the next month or so. They said that amazingly enough, that night worked for them too.

So, while we were still on the phone, I hopped on to Ticketmaster to see if there were any seats available. No regular seats, but they had premium seats (fifth or sixth row, center orchestra) available. I offered to grab them right then. They said that they were very friendly with a ticket broker, and they wanted the opportunity to contact him first.

They called back 30 minutes later and told us that they could get the tickets cheaper than the premium seat price, so we locked in the date.

We met for dinner at a restaurant we had never been to (or heard of), one block away from the theater, called Vice Versa. Beautiful place, extremely nice staff. The tables are crowded together, but offset like an interesting jigsaw puzzle, so there’s still a sense of privacy, even though there are lots of people right around you.

The food was superb, and for mid-town, theater district, reasonably priced (not cheap, but cheaper than most restaurants of this caliber). I feel the need to highlight the $10 lentil and chickpea soup that I had. Very generous portion, and wonderfully delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meal thoroughly.

We tried to split the bill. We tried hard. At one point, I even thought we succeeded, since the other couple took my credit card. But, when the waiter came with the bill, the husband only gave his card, returned mine to me, and promised that we’ll split it “next time”. Oh well, we suffered with a great meal that didn’t cost us anything. Thanks guys, we loved the place and the food, and you’re not getting away with treating next time! πŸ™‚

The tickets that they got were simply incredible. Third row, dead center orchestra. Wow. I have to get me a friend who is a ticket broker too. πŸ˜‰ We paid less than the cost of premium seats (which is exactly what this row is considered), so I’m a little suspicious that our friends underwrote part of our ticket price, but I’m hoping that wasn’t the case!

For those who don’t regularly read this blog, this was our seventh time seeing Wicked, and I’ve written about it many times. The most recent writeup was here, which summarizes our general feelings about Wicked as a show, and specific cast members.

In that show, we saw Annaleigh Ashford for the first time. She was awesome. For regular readers, you know I can be particularly tough/harsh on the two lead roles. We missed Stephanie J. Block that night, as she off getting married to the then Fiyero (Sebastian Arcelus).

So, when we walked into the theater last night, both Lois and I were anxious to rip into the playbill to see if there were any critical understudies filling in. There were two: Jan Neuberger was playing Madame Morrible and Briana Yacavone was playing the Midwife. The Midwife is on stage for a few minutes, so I wasn’t nervous. Madame Morrible has a large role, so there was a twinge, but as long as the two leads are good, it would be hard to ruin the magic. It turns out that Jan did a wonderful job as Madame Morrible, so no worries there.

After their marriage, Sebastian Arcelus left the Broadway cast fairly quickly. Luckily for us, we had seen him once (before Stephanie joined the cast), and he was terrific. The understudy who covered for him while he was away getting married was wonderful too. We’ve been very happy with every Fiyero we’ve seen.

Last night was a new one, David Burham. He’s as cute as they come, looks the role and plays the spoken parts well. He isn’t as good as the others at the dancing parts (not that he’s bad), and he’s inconsistent (though never bad) in the singing parts. He was OK (nothing special) in his opening (signature!) number (Dancing Through Life), but was fantastic in the duet with Elphaba (As Long As You’re Mine). So, he has the voice, just not the consistency. We liked him though, so again, no problem.

On to the leads. Annaleigh was awesome, again. Aside from having a spectacular voice, to repeat my last post, her comedic timing is impeccable (that includes facial expressions, which can easily be seen from the third row). The only number that she didn’t shine in (this time, since she did it better last time) was the normally spine tingling For Good. She was flat in that number (not bad), and it’s possible that it was the interplay between her and Stephanie, but who knows what the real reason is.

Now the one that I was particularly nervous about, Stephanie J. Block. All-in-all, a good performance. She was notable in the acting parts of the role. She was more expressive than the previous Elphabas, and handled all of the speaking parts as well as one could hope for.

Vocally, nothing in her performance was disappointing (other than wanting every note to be perfect), but there was a vast difference between her and Idina Menzel or Eden Espinosa. Even Ana Gasteyer did a better job singing the role.

What was surprising to me though was that the hardest notes to hit, she hit flawlessly each time, and with wonderful controlled power. Specifically (but not exclusively) during the last few stanzas of Defying Gravity (perhaps the most challenging number for Elphaba), Stephanie completely nailed it. The same chills that run up and down your spine for the other great Elphabas appear for Stephanie here as well.

But, for the majority of the normal parts of the rest of the songs, she sings a little flatly. She hits all the notes, but with less power and clarity. So, she has all of the ingredients of being a great Elphaba, but it doesn’t all hang together (for me). I wasn’t disappointed, and most certainly didn’t feel like I have with the bad Elphabas we’ve seen, but she didn’t inspire like the great ones have.

As always, the crowd was nuts about the show. The applause were thunderous. The one (marginally) surprising thing was that while the crowd gave Annaleigh and Stephanie a very rousing standing ovation, they didn’t stand until those two came on the stage. In other words, they were very enthusiastic for the rest of the cast, but didn’t stand for them. At the majority of the shows we’ve been to before, the crowd typically stood up once someone like Madame Morrible came out, and stood from then on.

At this point, there are only a few things that will get us to the show again:

  1. Our Richmond friends finally setting a date to come see the show πŸ˜‰
  2. Someone else that we’re close to begging us to go with them πŸ˜‰
  3. The leads changing again, to someone that I have reason to believe might bring back the thrills and chills of seeing them perform the roles.

Other than that, we’re probably satiated at this point.

If you still haven’t seen Wicked, just go and do it already! πŸ™‚