Each summer one of the big musicals comes to Montreal for a month, and this year it was one of my favourites; Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked. I’ve seen this show on Broadway (twice) and Toronto, and still love it.
For those of you not familiar with the show, it is based on Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked. This is a splinter-sharp prequel to The Wizard of Oz, focussing on the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Stephen Schwartz collaborated with Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book (i.e. the storyline and dialogue) for the musical. They made the decision to tone down the political undertone of the book and to focus on the friendship between Elphaba, the green skinned girl who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, and social butterfly Galinda (later Glinda the Good). I understand this is in no small part due to the chemistry between Kristin Chenoweth and Stephanie J Block during the initial workshops, so my thanks to those two fine actresses.
Now, this isn’t my favourite musical in terms of score – currently that would probably be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies – but having said that, there are a few hummable tunes to stick in your brain when you leave the theatre (“Defying Gravity” and “One Short Day” I’m looking at you…) For me the musical’s main attraction is
wonderfully written, strong, intelligent female characters and some incredible staging, notably the Act I finale, which is a real showstopper. It’s refreshing to have a musical in which True Love isn’t the main driving force. The theme that everyone in your life has something to teach you is also one I can appreciate.
My friend and I went to see the Montreal production a week or so ago, but we were way up in the gods (“in the nosebleed seats” to you Quebecers!) and I’d left my glasses at home. This meant that the view wasn’t as great as I might have wished. However, since I can practically since every line myself, I didn’t miss much. When the big musicals go on tour, they tend to try to give a cookie cutter replica experience of the Broadway production. My brochure notes that it takes 30 trailer trucks to move all the sets and other requirements from city to city. This does mean there’s little to distinguish one production from another, which can be a good or bad thing. In any case, the Montreal production is a professional, polished production and I adored it.
Since I saw it, I’ve had “Defying Gravity” running through my brain and I’ve been frantically entering the Wicked ticket lottery to win more tickets. So, in the words of Elphaba “if you care to find me, look to the Place des Arts…”