Saturday, August 29, 2009


Wifey and I spent the day with her brother the priest and one of her sisters. We rode BART from Fremont to San Francisco where we attended the musical play "Wicked." We have been attending plays and musical plays throughout our marriage and have seen "Camelot," "The Elephant Man," "Birth of the Beatles," "The King and I" (with Yul Brynner a couple of years before his death), "South Pacific," "42nd Street," "Sugar Babies" (with Mickey Rooney), "Grease," "Flower Drum Song," "Jersey Boys" and of course, the best of them all, "Phantom of the Opera."
"Wicked" is a story derived from "The Wizard of Oz," about the two witches, the Good Witch of the North (Glinda) and the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba). The yarn tells of how these two witches met in boarding school, where the ditzy blonde Glinda intially disdains Elphaba, who is green in color and rather sensitive about her unusual complexion. When someone points out that Elphaba is very "bright," Glinda retorts that yes, in fact she is positively phosphorescent. Har dee har har. Both Glinda and Elphaba fall for a male student, Fiyero, and are rivals for his affections. But in the end the ladies become friends. I won't spoil it for you, though. If you want to know who Fiyero gets stuck with, you'll have to see the play.

Apparently this has been a very popular play and won some Tony Awards in 2004. However, I felt the subject matter a bit too light to take seriously -- who really cares if the flying monkeys were persecuted animals or ACORN volunteers? I could never lose any sleep over such profound ruminations. As far as being green, it's been done before. See Shrek's girlfriend and Kermit the frog. Both of these characters were pondering the chartreuse social ramifications long before Elphaba showed up on her broomstick. Nevertheless, this Joanie-come-lately sings passionately through the play about how life handed her limes and she made lime-aid.

The play also touches other problematic sociological phenomena of concern to us all, e.g. whether the Munchkins were being held prisoner by the Wizard of Oz, who apparently wasn't the nice guy he was made out to be in "Oz," and touches on the incipient racism between Munchkins and other species of critter. This latter injustice is demonstrated when the school's professor of history is fired for being a goat. Yes, a goat, but not the John McCain kind: the kind with horns on his head and a goatee, who probably eats tin cans when no one is looking. BAAAAAH Humbug.

The sets and costumes were impressive, the songs not too bad, and the play was laced with humor, interspersed between some really dumb dialogue and gimme-a-break plot twists. If you want to see the play, it's probably worth the money, but if you miss it, don't fret. The price of a ticket would buy a fistful of really good cigars.

If "Phantom of the Opera" earns a solid A for a really classy piece of stage-mongery, then "Wicked" by comparison only gets a grade of C. I spent many blissful moments listening to my CD of "Phantom," and contemplating the tragedy of unrequited love and the songs that were packed with both meaning and emotion, songs like "Think of Me" and "All I Ask of You." However, I can't remember one song from "Wicked." I hate to dump a pail of water on you, but by tomorrow I will probably have forgotten the play completely.

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