Theater – Wicked

I am a very lucky girl.  Ever since I was little, my parents have been taking me out to cultural events – concerts, plays, musicals, etc.  I remember the year that my dad got tickets for all of us to see Phantom of the Opera at the Kennedy Center back when I was a little girl in the early 90s.  It was breathtaking.  We got tickets to a show once or twice a year – usually around Christmas, and we still go see whatever is touring locally around my birthday.  But the memories surrounding musicals and theater with my family are many.  I’ve had the chance to see some great shows, and I’m lucky that it’s such a regular part of my life.

But it’s not that way for everyone.  There are lots of people who want to go to shows and can’t for reasons of money, geography, or available time.  They have to console themselves with what’s available online, or with the cast recordings that are available.  You see a lot of this with Hamilton – there are a LOT of fans of the show out there who know all the music, the characters, have strong feelings about the show but who have never seen it live.  It is the unfairness of life.

But…when someone finally has a chance to see a show that they’ve loved from afar, it is a magical thing.

I’ve seen Wicked before.  It’s a good show.  I bought the original cast recording when I went to see it, because it’s enjoyable, and the music is terrific.  But having seen it, I was satisfied.  I didn’t need to see it again.

So when I got an email from Nicole’s mother inviting me to go see Wicked with them, I was intrigued.  It turns out that Mama H (as I’ll call her) hasn’t seen Wicked before, and is obsessed – loves the show to death, has seen all the clips and everything available on YouTube, and knows all the songs.  My mom and I have taken Nicole to a few shows (see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), so Mama H wanted to return the favor.  I was flattered, and so obliged, and was very thankful for the opportunity to be taken to such a fun show.

And guys – it turns out that it’s more fun to see a show with someone who loves it and is seeing it for the first time.  I can’t tell you how excited Mama H was before the show.  I’m sure that I only got a smidgen of what Nicole saw.  But there was a palpable anticipation.  Would it be as good as expected?  How would it feel?  As this is the touring company, and no longer Broadway cast (and far from the original cast, which was from 2003), would they be as good as what you might see in New York?

Thank goodness for newly added cast member Jessica Vosk as Elphaba.  I was BLOWN AWAY.  Yes, I’ve seen the show.  I’ve seen and heard recordings of Idina Menzel as the original Elphaba, and there are other performances of the songs from the show that are very good, but Vosk is terrific.  She has this powerful voice that just guts you.  What’s amazing to think is that Vosk only started performing on Broadway recently – she was working on Wall Street at an investor relations firm as recently as five years ago.  But this voice wasn’t meant to stay hidden, and I’m so glad that she joined the cast.

Yes, I enjoyed the show.  Having seen it before and knowing that it’s been on Broadway and touring for about 13 years gives you a high chance of success.  But I wasn’t really the target audience that night.  It was Mama H.  I hoped and worried (and am sure Nicole did too) that it would live up to Mama H’s hopes and expectations.  And the good news is that I think it did.  There were some choreography differences between the recordings online and what was presented that were noticeable to a devotee, but I got the feeling that she was satisfied in her soul.  Because there is very little that is better than the opportunity to live out your heart’s desire.  And I think the hours that we were there, watching the show, she got to.  For the rest of us, it was a wonderful show as well, but seeing Mama H get to witness her musical theater dream was almost better.  And if it’s one you’re desperate to see, this is a performance and cast that won’t disappoint.  So that’s my recommendation for the future – find someone who will be even more excited than you are, and get thrill of enjoying a show twice – once simultaneously, and then through their eyes.

Details: Wicked, at the Kennedy Center Opera House, through January 8 2017.

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