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!