Sunday, January 5, 2014

REVIEW! Wicked 2NT, Cleveland, 1/4/14 m!

On 1/4/14, I saw the 2nd National Tour of Wicked in Cleveland, Ohio at the State Theatre.  The State Theatre is one of my favorite venues for any show, but in particular I love seeing Wicked there.  It's a great space for the show in my opinion.  I have seen Wicked in Cleveland twice before, once on March 1, 2008 and again on December 5, 2009.  Having just seen the 2nd National Tour in August, I didn't think there was going to be much difference to report on in this post, as all of the leads (with the exception of Emily Behny as Nessarose) and most of the ensemble are still the same.  However, yesterday's performance was very different from the one I saw in Toledo over the summer.  By now, everyone knows about Wicked, and what the story is about.  I am simply going to review the cast and some other things that are specific to the 2nd National Touring production.

Understudies: Gregory Haney as Chistery, Tess Farrell as The Midwife and Becca Khloa as The Witch's Mother.  All three were great, though none of those roles are particularly large.  I liked Becca's voice much better than some other people I have seen in the role.  The Midwife has all of five seconds onstage, but Tess did a great job, and Gregory Haney was a great Chistery, the people around me were ooh ing when he finally spoke at the end.

The Orchestra:  I don't know if something was in their water or something, but they were on FIRE!  Especially the guitar player(s).  The electric guitar added something special to "Defying Gravity" and "The Wicked Witch of the East" in particular.  They were loud, and I just loved it, and I especially loved that during Glinda's lines in "Thank Goodness" ("Well maybe I can't.  Is that so wrong?  Who could?") an underscoring of Popular takes place.  I don't know if I had never noticed that before or if I simply forgot, but it's just brilliant writing.

The Ensemble: Very strong and motivated still, despite some of them being on the road for so long.  I love picking out people in the ensemble that stand out to me, and Lilli Cooper was excellent and stood out to me this time around.  I loved her solos and she just had great energy, catching my eye several times.  The dancing is still perfect and I noticed so many little things that I have not noticed before, such as in "One Short Day," two of the ensemble members went arm in arm downstage doing the same skipping that Dorothy and her friends made famous in The Wizard of Oz. Brilliant. 

The Leads:
John Hillner is still great as Dr. Dillamond, a role that only has about 17 minutes of stage time, but is crucial to the plot.  I like his voice a lot, even though you don't get to hear as much of it.

Alex Wyse
Alex Wyse is such a great Boq.  He just has a very charming energy about him and his very likable.
He always has a huge smile on his face when it's appropriate and it makes him that much more likable.  I love his voice and it made me wish that Boq got to sing more (though that is quite a frequent wish on my part).  His tin man reaction was gold, and I loved him in "March of the Witch Hunters" which is such a tragic song, because Boq is a good person and he's letting loose and getting angry, plotting how to kill a former classmate.  But he was awesome.

Emily Behny
Emily Behny was AMAZING as Nessarose.  I haven't seen vocal power like that since I saw Carla Stickler.  I have seen some amazing Nessas but she is definitely near the top of my list.  WWOTE was a highlight of the show, and she was also a stunningly great actress.  She did the role just right.  I didn't hate her the whole time, in fact I never hated her.  I pitied her because she didn't mean any harm, she just never got it.  By 'it' I mean life.  She was set up to fail, and her life ends before she had even matured/grown into anyone.  She comes to college in the beginning, so assuming time works the same way in Oz, she would have been 18.  Intermission is supposedly two years, so she's twenty years old and ruling Munchkinland.  It's tragic, really.
Walker Jones

Walker Jones is so great as the Wizard.  He's charming and funny and super quirky.  Loved his voice and again I loved the fact that SOMETHING about his performance made me think about The Wizard's past, and re-inforced my theory that he grew up much like Elphaba.  It may have been the smile that is glued to his face all the time.   Smiles are intriguing in a way, and I think that may be what did it, but I really loved his performance.  He is great, and I loved seeing him onstage as the Wizard again.

Kathy Fitzgerald
Kathy Fitzgerald as Madame Morrible was perfect.  This was my third time seeing her and it was the best.  Her voice for the character as well as the rolling r's are perfect, and I particularly enjoyed the scene at the OzDust with Hayley.  Her speech in Defying Gravity was absolutely sold.  Very menacing and bullying and the people around me were making sympathetic noises for Elphaba, which is exactly what should be happening.  Love her onstage and off.

David Nathan Perlow.  I
David Nathan Perlow
can't deal with this guy.  He is so great as Fiyero, this was my third time seeing him, and it was the best time as well.  His voice is just amazing, as is his presence onstage and chemistry with Jenny.  He's a great actor, and made a really subtle acting choice that made his performance all that more brilliant at the end.  When he and Elphaba were walking off into the clock during the finale, he stumbled around a bit a la The Wizard of Oz because *spoiler* he's a scarecrow!  No one I had seen play the role before (including the two times I saw David) had ever done that and it's so simple but it was such a good move on his part.  It really added to the moment.  The two of them are forever changed.

Hayley Podschun
Hayley Podschun has grown so much in the role of Glinda since August.  She was brilliant there as well, but this time around I was WOWED by her.  First of all, she has so much energy.  It was impressive to watch her go, especially during Popular, which was hysterical.  Her soprano is absolutely gorgeous and effortless.  It flows and I just found myself enjoying listening to her sing, and she also has a really nice belt which she got to show off in "Thank Goodness."  She added little riffs and really made me love her in that number.  The growth she went through was astonishing, and I felt a huge transformation from her between the acts.  She and Jennifer DiNoia also sang the best rendition of For Good I've heard yet, and her Finale was gorgeous.

Jennifer DiNoia as Elphaba is the definition of a rock star.  I have seen her three times now as Elphaba
Jennifer DiNoia
and her voice and presence onstage have wildly improved.  The first time I saw her was in 2010 when she was still a standby in NYC, and I did think she was great then, but she was still a 'standby' in the sense that she wasn't able to fully own the character because it wasn't hers yet.  When I saw her last summer, she completely turned that around and nailed it, adding new riffs that she is the first to do, and this time was even better.  First, she never calls out which is incredible.  I have seen maybe 4 or 5 tweets from Alyssa Fox saying that she would be on, but Jenny's attendance record is remarkable.   No Good Deed was so well acted, and her Wizard and I has grown so much, even since last summer.  The high notes are graceful and well controlled, and Defying Gravity was just mindblowing.  I was shocked though, because no one applauded after I'm Not That Girl.  I tried to start the applause and no one followed, it was weird.  She did a phenomenal job with that song and she is one of the best acted Elphabas I have ever seen.  I am so glad I got to see her again, and hopefully I'll get to see her in Wicked or any other show again!  Jenny and Hayley also had some of the best chemistry of any of the witches I have ever seen.  I really felt like they were a team!

Hayley Podschun and Jennifer DiNoia.
After the show I got to go backstage with one of my favorite cast members ever and talk to several company members, see the bells and whistles backstage, as well as some of the costumes, and just see things another way.  It has been 5 years since I last went backstage and it was really exciting to do it again!  I love talking to the 'folks in Oz' because they love their supporters so much and are always willing to chat.  I had a great day in Oz and I can't wait to go back (fairly soon!)  I am choosing not to post photos with cast members because I don't think I look so great in them!  Ha!  Everyone in Wicked is just too attractive for me! ;)

The 2nd National Tour is off to Buffalo this week, and if you get the chance to see it, GO!  This cast is not to be missed.


Misty Chappell said...

Have you seen Curt Hansen as Fiyero? He is Ah-mazing!!!! He does the Scarecrow stumble too lol thought I was the only one who caught that. ;)

Chris said...

Nicolas Dromard did a great scarecrow stumble, too. I do hope you get to see Alyssa as Elphaba someday -- I saw her two (and only) appearances as Elphie in San Francisco and she was already really good. I'm hoping she sticks with the tour until it comes back to California.