Dave and I went to see Wicked again last Thursday. We bought the tickets months ago or we might not have picked such a stressful and busy time, but it was a lot of fun to see the show again.
Whatever faults it has, it’s a completely entertaining show — the story is engaging and novel, the performances are very good, the set and costumes are astoundingly beautiful, and the show moves at a breathless pace.
I thought the second part of the show, after Glinda and Elphaba leave school and head for the Emerald City, and we start to learn about the dark side of how Oz is governed, worked better than I’ve ever seen it work.
Much of this improvement is due, I think, to Kendra Kassebaum’s performance as Glinda, which seemed much stronger and richer to me than it had when we saw it earlier in the run. I think maybe she wasn’t quite as funny as Kristen Chenoweth was in the college scenes. But I thought that in the second part, from the scene at the end of first act where Glinda and Elphaba part ways and all through the second act, she was much stronger and more moving than Chenoweth was, or even than she herself had been at the beginning of the SF run. Right from the beginning of the second act, she made her sadness and disillusion more palpable, and there was more heart in her performance. That helped make the signs of totalitarianism in the Emerald City feel more significant this time around, and I felt more than I did before that I was watching Glinda in the process of being changed by events and not just being told at the end of the show that she had been changed by them.
I still don’t care much for a lot of Schwartz’s lyrics, which don’t seem well crafted to the story to me; many of them don’t seem to me to make their points as sharply as they really ought to. Schwartz spoke in an interview I read somewhere about rewriting Fiyero’s first act number so that what had been subtext in the first version of the song was explicitly stated in the new version; I think there are a number of other songs that would be stronger if he’d done the same to them.
But I liked his music more this time around. Knowing the score better, I was able to follow how the themes are used as underscoring in the second act, and there were quite a few nice little ironic surprises there.