So it’s very shrewd to be / Very very popular / Like me!

And very, very popular it is.

Yesterday afternoon, we went to go see Wicked at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. This is an immensely popular show. To my knowledge, it is sold out: we certainly saw long lines waiting for cancellations and the ticket lottery. There were also folks trying to buy our tickets as we walked to the show.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Wicked tells the “pre-story” of the Wicked Witch of the West, asking the question: Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? It is based on the excellent book by Gregory McGuire. It tells the story of the relationship between Elphaba (whose name consists of the first syllables of “L. Frank Baum”) and Galinda (later Glinda). Elphaba is your traditional outsider: rejected by everyone based on her green skin and attitude to match, whereas Galinda is the bubblehead blonde popular girl. How these two become best friends, and change the face of Oz (while still interconnecting with the classic movie and books) is the story. This story has many levels and great questions that can be discussed, ranging from the nature of good and evil (is it all perspective), to the importance of being true to yourself, vs. the desire to be popular. As such, it speaks to all ages.

We had the national touring cast for our production, with one understudy, Maria Eberline, filling in for the injured Stephanie Block. Maria did an excellent job. Others in the cast included Kendra Kassebaum as Galinda/Glinda, Carol Kane as Madame Morrible, David Garrison (one of my favorite actors) as the Wizard, Derrick Williams as Fiyero, and Logan Lipton as Boq. I have to say the cast was excellent, and more importantly, seemed to have a lot of fun doing the show (which always comes through, and does improve the performance).

As I alluded to at the start, this show is very popular. I haven’t seen such an enthusiastic audience in my years attending the theatre. This crowd was into the show, and the energy it gave in the entire theatre was remarkable. I truly enjoyed the production, and I enjoyed the message:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Next up: Purlie at the Pasadena Playhouse on July 23rd. This is a show with great music, and one that just got an excellent writeup in the Los Angeles Times. After that is the Cabrillo Music Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz on July 31st.

[Cross-posted to socal_theatre]