Something Wicked This Way Comes

Yesterday, while spending my time on the West Coast, my sister treated the First Mate and me to Hollywood afternoon — tickets to the theatre and dinner at a unique LA restaurant. It has been years since we’ve been to a play that didn’t feature a family member or friend as part of the cast; I think the last play was Blood Brothers with David Cassidy at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
This time, we went to a more storied venue, the Pantages on Hollywood Boulevard. For those who have not experienced it, the Pantages is one of the grand venues of the Los Angeles stage. Its breathtaking internal design and decor make it a destination stop all by itself. In fact, as we entered it, we saw tour buses stopped outside its entrance.
This time, however, the play most definitely surpassed the surroundings. Wicked comes from the novel of the same name, which the FM read a few years ago. It tells the “real story” behind the Wizard of Oz, and how Elphaba — the Wicked Witch of the West — came to be terribly misunderstood and more sinned against than sinning herself. Glinda, her enemy in Wizard of Oz, actually had been Elphaba’s best friend in school, until a dark movement in the Emerald Kingdom tore them apart, and that friendship serves as the center of the two-act musical.
And what a musical it is! The music is breathtaking, and the dialogue is witty and engaging. The reworked story of Oz uses cynicism and naivete in equal measures, and no one gets away unscathed. As one might expect, the Los Angeles tour cast performed excellently, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I knew that Elphaba was played by understudy Julie Reiber rather than Eden Espinosa. Reiber teamed up with Megan Hilty’s Glinda to form a powerful duet on several showstopping songs. As an extra treat, Carol Kane (“Taxi”, The Princess Bride) played an important supporting role.
When it comes to your town, be sure to see it. It’s such an unforgettable experience, I bought the soundtrack on the way out the door. It may be the first music CD I’ve purchased in a couple of years.
Afterwards, we went to Off Vine Restaurant, which is — as advertised — is just off Hollywood and Vine, nearby the Pantages. The restaurant operates out of a house built there in 1908, giving it a unique feel in the heart of Hollywood. I had a delicious salmon with artichoke hearts, while the FM chose a linguine and shrimp served with asparagus in a lobster-butter sauce. We finished with a raspberry souffle that topped a wonderful day.
But now, it’s time to go back to work!

9 thoughts on “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

  1. Have been wanting to see the show for sometime. This is just one more rave review to add to the pile.
    You’ll have to let me know if you want to visit the Magic Castle while in town. If you’ve never been, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have been, you do know what you’re missing. It’s another Hollywood landmark, like the Pantages and Musso & Franks>

  2. The one thing I miss the most about leaving Los Angeles; theater… My wife and I enjoyed season tickets to the Pantages Theater for many years; the talent for performing arts in southern California is outstanding, and this is a great way to spend an evening (or afternoon) with your loved ones.
    The Pantages theater was renovated a few years ago; fabulous historical building with some of the finest wood work one will ever see.

  3. So true Keemo. I have lived here twenty years and it’s about time to pack it up. Giving up the quality and variety of the arts available here will be sorely missed.

  4. Saw it on Broadway this summer. Paid a ridiculous amount for the only tickets we could get. Still enjoyed it, and would (grudgingly) do it again – thought the story was the most clever and creative I have seen in, forever. I thought the music was ok – well done but it didn’t seem to have any lyrics that just won’t get out of your head. NO bad actors in it. Some excellent theatrical special effects, at least on Broadway.

  5. Captain,
    I have heard some criticize “wicked” for making the PC mistake of trying to say that all evil can be explained by some past grievance. Would you say there is any truth to this?
    Right now the bulk of the media is going after NBC’s “To catch a Predator” because one of these bums shot himself when the police called on him. One could assume this is part of the “Oh the poor sick man, he killed himself” mentality versus the more rational “He killed himself rather than go to prison for his crimes”.
    Can America be strong while constantly pitying the evil? This is just a philisophical question.
    I mean, what will be next? Perhaps a musical about how much Hitler loved his little dog “Blondie” and failed in his true goal of being a gentle artist only to turn toward the evil goal of World domination because he had a bad upbringing?

  6. Right now the bulk of the media is going after NBC’s “To catch a Predator” because one of these bums shot himself when the police called on him.
    The real tragedy was not about the suicide victim, but rather that the cases are being dismissed because police procedure was not followed. NBC procedure was, under the direction of a vigilante group. In Texas, all 23 cases were tossed due to bad procedure. Not only did they not catch the bad guys, lawsuits will now follow.

  7. Saw Wicked in Chicago – it was excellent. A little PC? Perhaps, but minimally (I percieved much of the PC as being wry rather than strident, an amusing twisting of al the base assumptions that one might have come in with, and it did not attempt to explain away evil as a result of poor upbringing – it was more of a recasting as a misunderstood Robin Hood or Zorro type of characterization with the prior known story being cast as the corrupt government’s spin). It is one of the most clever pieces I have ever scene.

  8. Love, love LOVE Wicked! We saw it two years ago in Houston for my birthday (it was impossible to get tickets in Dallas as it was completely sold out and decent tickets were in the hundreds). We saw it again this year with the kids. And it is one of the shows that we will probably see every time it comes to town.
    There’s a lot more to the story than simply the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba. One of the underlying themes has to do with how a fascist society becomes that way, and it mirrors Nazi Germany’s demonization of the Jews with the demonization of the speaking animals by the Wizard and his cohorts. Also, it shows how public relations “spinning” can convince a mob that a good person is evil and how a bad person is good.
    It lead to some very interesting discussions with the kids…

  9. Saw Wicked a year ago in Chicago on our wedding anniversary. We’re going up to see it again next Sunday.
    I’ve thought since first seeing it that Bill Clinton could play the Wizard without makeup.
    Anyway, it was the best show I’ve seen in years — and that includes Phantom.

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