On April 9, 2017 I took a very last minute trip to Rochester, NY to catch the Munchkinland Tour of Wicked's closing matinee performance there. I had never seen Wicked (or any show) in Rochester before and was quite excited to go see the show on such a whim. I of course knew that the chances of seeing Jessica Vosk were almost 0%, because Emily Schultheis typically does the Sunday matinees, but I was excited to see her as well. In addition, this would be my boyfriend's first time seeing Wicked ever!
Upon arriving inside, we found that not only would Emily be performing, but Garrett Have would be playing Boq. I was a little disappointed that Andy Mientus was out of the show, because I have been a huge fan of his for a long time.
First of all, I just want to make a note about the Auditorium Theatre. I do not make a point to complain about 'customer service' on the internet whenever I can avoid it. However the staff at the Auditorium was incredibly rude. I was appalled. From the snooty and rude stage door security, to the ushers yelling at people for taking selfies, and subsequently forcing them to delete literally any picture taken inside the house at all, to the questionably racist rant I experienced from my usher at intermission, the staff at the Auditorium Theatre NOTABLY dampened the experience.
The show itself was of course good. It was not the strongest performance of Wicked I had ever seen. However, in general, I chalked it up to being very muted by the experience I had with the ushers and other staff members, and nerves because I really hoped my boyfriend would enjoy the show. In addition, the sound was atrocious. The theatre did not seem to have the best acoustics, and since we were all the way off to the side, a lot of the sound got lost.
The cast on tour, however is very strong. I am writing this in the midst of the run in Buffalo where I have already seen it a handful of times (I will be writing a review after it closes there!) and they truly have become one of my favorite casts in general. Notable standouts in Rochester included Ginna Claire Mason, Kristen Martin, Fred Applegate and Isabel Keating.
Emily Schultheis was a strong Elphaba. She is not the best I have ever seen, but I enjoyed her a great deal. After seeing her a second time in Buffalo (again, new review coming soon!) I enjoyed her even more. Her voice is really beautiful, and really excels and shines during songs like For Good and Defying Gravity, particularly the end. Her 'The Wizard and I' was at least as strong vocally as Jennifer DiNoia's, perhaps a little stronger. It's a little less dynamic in terms of emotion, but just a little. She didn't do anything particularly different than any other Elphaba, but she did a nice job with the song. I thought she and Ginna had found a nice chemistry together for only having been on a few times together at that point. Her Elphaba is very stubborn and nerdy. Defying Gravity was the highlight of her performance, the end was very loud and resonant and blasted right through the sound issues at the theatre. Her No Good Deed was not as dynamic as it could have been, but it was still a strong performance of the song. For Good showed off the really beautiful and intimate sides of her voice. She is also such a cute person offstage, and was adorable with the kids at the stage door. I really like her a lot. And STAY TUNED because I thought she was much stronger in Buffalo :)
Ginna Claire Mason was just as good as I remembered her being from last June in New York. I was so excited to see her again, and she didn't disappoint. She has such a pretty voice and she is so cute onstage and off (see stage door pictures!). I cannot wait to see where this role takes her. She has such fun chemistry with Jeremy Woodard. She also worked really well with Isabel Keating, and since then she has only grown. She was incredible in the opening number, her soprano is very floaty and resonant and she is a very dynamic actress. Her strongest moment is in Thank Goodness, where she delivers a very emotional punch to the heart. Her performance of that song is very layered and touching, and her belt comes out of it's shell and truly shines. Popular was not quite as hammed up as it is with Carrie St. Louis or Kara Lindsay, but it's still quite funny, especially her Toss, Toss moment.
Jeremy Woodard did a nice job as Fiyero too, I believe I gushed about him in my last review of the 2NT, but he is still out there killing it. I love his voice and his accent. He is also a really strong dancer, and i loved his chemistry with Ginna (Especially the moment in DTL where she checks out his butt as her turns and he smirks at her afterward.)
Kristen Martin is one of the stronger vocalists I have seen play Nessarose which is always a pleasant surprise. She actually belts and takes control of WWOTE, which doesn't always happen. I also really like her in Act 1, she chose to have a lot of quiet, silly moments with Emily just via facial expression so that I felt a sense that Elphaba was not taking care of Nessa out of a sense of obligation, but love and desire for her to be okay.
Garrett Hawe was a reasonably good Boq. Not a standout for me, but not bad by any means! I LOVE his voice, I always have. He just didn't seem like the most natural fit for the character in most respects, including his height. Still, I enjoyed him.
Isabel Keating reminded me a lot of Alison Fraser, which I liked. She's very charming and sweet in Act 1, even with Dr. Dillamond which is not common. I LOVE her Defying Gravity speech as well. I have more to say when I review Buffalo :) I am trying to keep thoughts separate from this trip and all the ones made so far in Buffalo. But Isabel did a really fantastic job in both cities.
Fred Applegate was a charming Wizard that I liked very much. He is not quite as unique in his take as Peter Scolari or John Davidson, but I really like his voice a lot, he actually sings his parts really really well, and he delivers on the few 'money notes' that the Wizard has. I was very impressed by him.
The ensemble in Rochester was absolutely stolen by Chase Madigan, John Krause, Michael Drolet and Olivia Polci. Absolute stars in their own rights. I can always hear Michael, he is very loud. Olivia's solos are always beautiful, and Chase/John are just very much eye-grabbing and attention-commanding. I really liked them
I can't wait to get more in depth for my Buffalo review. But apart from the horrible theatre, I really enjoyed the experience I had in Rochester! :)