‘Wicked’ Is A Spectacular Light Show

by "Buzzin" Lee Hartgrave on August 12, 2005

With more witches per square inch in San Francisco than anywhere else in the world – this is the perfect setting for the musical “Wicked” at the Orpheum Theater. When the musical opened at the Curran Theater in 2003 – it was great fun but too long. It went on to Broadway to become a huge success. In N.Y. it went through many changes. They added some dance numbers, changed the ending and gave the musical a contempory edge. This “Wicked” is a spectacular light show with touches of Cirque du Soliel sprinkled with ‘High Camp”. There are even reminders of Phantom of the Opera (The fire breathing dragon) above the stage and musical bits that ring of Les Miz. It’s a high flyin’ Disney World Electric City. “Wicked” is the story of three witches.Glinda The Good”, who rides around in a bubble with trails of bubbles surrounding her, and Elphaba a do-gooder witch with green skin who wants to do good – but her “PETA” like “Save the Animals” stance does not sit well in the city of “Oz”.

As you know – Witches fly around on brooms and no one does it more visually than Eden Espinosa (Elphaba). Never in the history of musicals will you see something this dramatic. The lighting made it a Witches rock concert. The audience was ecstatic – they hooted and hollered at the riveting drama. A new Rocky Horror show Icon was born. Now here is a warning to all the Witches on Market Street. Don’t try this in public.

I read somewhere that “Wicked” doesn’t have any memorable music. Wrong! It has plenty of memorable music, especially the wonderful, campy “Popular” sung by Witch Galenda (Kendra Kassebaum.) ” I’m Not That Girl” sung by Witch Elphaba was a knockout performance by Eden Espinosa. Also good is “Wonderful”, the duet by The Wizard (David Garrison) and Witch Elphaba. The song “Popular” is reprised throughout the show with different tempos, giving it a whole new impact in each scene.

Before there was Harry Potter – there was a witch school in “Oz”. And the Grand Madame of the school and renowned weather Witch is the always super fabulous Carol Kane (Madame Morrible). Watch out for her – because she can whip up a Tornado faster than you can say “Time”.

Witch Galenda, who later changes her name to Glinda the Good, is delightful as the snooty, spoiled rich girl on the witch campus. When Elphaba says to her: “I have no friends”. Glinda without blinking an eyelash or messing up her hair sez in her I don’t care about you attitude: “I have lots of friends.” She is so uncaring – and always gets her way. Well, not always.

In the show there are flying monkeys, animals that can talk, huge gears whirling around and fantastic special effects. In the menacing fog – the actors are in constant movement. There are no dull moments in this show. Dozens of singers and dancers whirl around, climb, cross bridges and celebrate when one of witches disappears when a bucket of water is tossed on her. And of course, there is always the perky little Goody Two Shoes Glinda in her glass bubble. “Look at me – I have a wand.”

The amazing music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell), and the book is by Winnie Holzman. Joe Mantello directs. The musical staging is by Tony Award winner Wayne Cilento (Aida). Kenneth Posner has designed the most exquisite, inventive, unusual lighting ever seen in a Broadway show. The fantastic sound is by Tony Meola.

“Wicked is an electrifying, immensely entertaining show that is packed with wonderful mischief. As a long-time Witch Watcher I highly recommend it. Here’s a fascinating fact: The electrics department in the show uses enough power to supply approximately twelve houses. When you include the sound and automation departments, the total would increase to eighteen houses. IT’S BRIGHT!

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!!

AD THIS..AD THIS..AD THIS.

SEE A LIVE PERMANCE OF THE STARS OF “WICKED” AND MEET GLINDA AND ELPHABA ON FRIDAY AUGUST 19th AT THE SEPORA STORE IN THE CITY. EDEN ESPINOSA WILL PERFORM THE SMASH HIT. “THE WIZARD AND I.” CAMERAS WILL BE ROLLING.JUST LIKE A HOLLYWOOD OPENING. WEAR SOMETHING BE-WITCHING! YOU COULD BE ON NEWS AT 11PM.

THEATER DISTRICT MID-MARKET.

The owner of the Warfield Theater wants to turn a small section of Market Street into a mini Times Square – with a block of Neon Lights. Great Idea! It would bring life back to the once famed street that lost its vibrancy when they “beautified” it. The planning commissions words – not mine. While we’re at it. Why doesn’t the City help by buying the Strand Theater and the other few remaining theaters along the stretch and make them venues for entertainment similar to what they did with the Paramount in Oakland. It could be of great value to performing Bay Area Theater, Dancers, musicians and other art forms. This also would help bring people back to Market Street. And if the City does let them build more faceless, dreary concrete structures along the stretch, lets at least make sure that the ground floor of these buildings have cafe’s restaurants and other business’s that will bring people back to Market Street. Don’t make the same mistake that again like the planners did with the financial district. At night you could shot a cannon through the place and no one would notice. It’s creepy at night – because there is no nightlife. What a same to waste all this real estate. Here is another thing. Uncover the lights buried under the trees on Market and turn them on. The City spent millions to run the lights and then turned around and covered them with gravel. Their excuse was “People were throwing things around them.” When will SF wake up to the fact that the City is not a giant self-cleaning oven? Great cities take great care in maintenance. Try it City Senators or Romans. You’ll like the way it looks.

GOTTA GO NOW.GOTTA GO NOW.GOTTA GO NOW.RANT, RANT, RANT..GO, GO, GO NOW!

buzztatler@aol.com

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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