REVIEW: Wicked Manila (aka "Why I love Wicked so much")

I first found out about Wicked after seeing a video of Lea Salonga belting to Defying Gravity in her first Carnegie Hall concert (while she was pregnant, btw). It was 2006, three years after the musical debuted on Broadway. From the first time I heard Lea sing that song, I instantly fell in love with it. I knew right then that Wicked will become something I would love, maybe even more than (how I loved) Miss Saigon.

So I went online and do the best I can to find videos of the musical; Short clips; Interviews; Documentaries; Rehearsal footage; The entire show itself. For the first few months of searching every video website, my search had been unsuccessful. I was devastated. I put it aside and focused on other things; work; dancing; our LEAdventures; my family. It wasn't until after a year or two when, while checking Google Videos, I thought about searching for the show again. This time, I was lucky. It wasn't really the Original Broadway Cast (The Wizard wasn't played by Joel Grey) but everyone else was in it. Plus, it was a special show because it was Kristin Chenoweth, Norbert Leo Butz, and Joel Grey's final performance (although Joel Grey didn't do the Wizard then because of an injury). Bingo!

Even after all these years, I can still remember the feeling of watching it for the first time. I was in the office at the time and was tasked to write as many 50-word articles as I can. Usually, I can write an average of 35 sets in a day. That day, I managed only 20. I was too busy trying to hide my emotions and keep my tears from falling. But no matter how I tried, I failed... Miserably.

I didn't care, though. That's one thing I love about my then-work space; no one will see me weeping (except the HR officer, whose office is a few steps away from my cubicle). But it was that moment when I realized my love for Wicked just grows stronger. I continued searching for new videos, books, and everything else Wicked-related. I also started to become a fan of some of the actors in the show, particularly the actresses who played Elphaba and Galinda - Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth as Elphaba and Galinda
Photo c/o: weareiu.com

 Despite having seen the musical (probably a hundred times) on my computer, on my iPod, or our TV set, I still want to see it live. I remember Delamar once told me at an EB how she loved the musical, despite not being able to see the original Broadway cast do it when she went to watch the show in New York, telling me that I "HAVE TO see it (live)". I even encouraged my cousin to come see one of its shows in Chicago. They did; they didn't regret it. In return, she bought me the Original Broadway Cast Recording as a birthday present. So when I heard the news that Wicked is finally coming to Manila, I was ecstatic. This is it, I told myself. I have to see it. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I miss this.

Which led me to this day...

To be honest, I was kind of afraid to see this run. I was afraid that they (ie; Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers) would fail to surpass my expectations; the ultra HIGH expectations that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth set in my mind. But boy, was I wrong. From the moment I walked in to the theater up to when the curtains went down, it was as if I was transported in another world. It definitely felt like I was in Oz. And I could never be too happy and grateful that I was able to finally see one of my favorite musicals live.

It's Not Easy Being Green
Jemma Rix as Elphaba
Idina Menzel is, and forever will be, my favorite Elphaba. I've seen videos of Stephanie J. Block (who originated the role during its early stages and was one of the alternates), Shoshana Bean (also one of the early Elphabas) and Eden Espinosa (also an Elphaba understudy) but for me, Idina Menzel IS Elphaba. She just gets her. Her vocal prowess may not be as strong as those three (or other Elphabas for that matter), but whenever Idina does Elphaba, she transforms. She becomes her. That's what I love about her; her Elphaba is just so... raw.

As for Jemma Rix, however, she was good... No. She was REALLY good. When she speaks, I can sometimes hear Idina in her. Her Defying Gravity was flawless (she pulled an Eden Espinosa in the end) and I like her in Dancing Through Life. I love how she (and Suzie) did the Elphie dance. I'm also happy that she and Suzie had a good rapport, just like Idina and Cheno did.

They COULDN'T All Come And Go By Bubbles
Suzie Mathers as Galinda
When you say Glinda the Good, there's only one name that comes to mind - Kristin Chenoweth. No one else comes close to Cheno's portrayal of Glinda for me. Call me biased but she IS my Glinda. Just like Idina Menzel, what I love about Kristin Chenoweth was that she just gets her character. And don't get me started on her vocal ability. Kristin Chenoweth can hit every freaking notes - "she hits high notes, and low notes, and medium notes, and holy shit notes." (4:01 - 4:06 as per Kathy Griffin)

One thing I liked about Cheno's portrayal of Glinda is that with her, it doesn't seem like acting. I never really bothered searching for other actresses who played Galinda after her (although I find Megan Hilty's extremely hilarious) because for me there was no point. After all, she was Stephen Schwartz's inspiration when he was creating the music for Galinda's character. I guess my major issue with every other Galinda really was that most of them were trying too hard to sound like Kristin Chenoweth (her Glinda speaking voice, that is). It's annoying! Only Kristin Chenoweth can pull-off Galinda like that, ladies. Please keep that in mind.

Suzie Mathers, on the other hand, was a funny Glinda. I like her own quirks as Glinda. Her voice sorta reminds me of Kristin Chenoweth's, but unlike other Galinda's, she wasn't trying hard to act like her. I also like how she does the 'Cheno big voice squeal' (0:28 - 0:31); it doesn't sounded pilit. And, after the show, I realized that I became a fan, like anyone else who have seen her do Glinda the Good and fell in love with her. And that if Wicked will be turned into a movie and they didn't pick Kristin Chenoweth to do Glinda, I wouldn't mind seeing Suzie step into the role.

Citizens of Oz
Steve Danielsen as Fiyero
Photo c/o: BroadwayWorld.com
 I like Norbert Leo Butz, but I fell in love with Steve Danielsen's Fiyero. He's soooooo dreamy; So gwapo! He's probably one of, if not THE most handsome Fiyero I have ever seen.

I also have to address the actress who played Nessarose, Emily Cascarino. Although the original Nessa, Michelle Federer, for me was better, her Nessa was good, too! I especially liked her in Wicked Witch of the East.

The ensemble was great as well. Though there were some parts that I think could have been better, I love their precision. I think the best was the opening, as well as One Short Day, Dancing Through Life, and What Is This Feeling.

One thing I noticed with this run though was they took out a few lines from the original show. For example, in the Dancing Through Life scene, the line exchanged by Fiyero and Galinda was taken out ("Who in Oz?" "It's my roommate. Please, don't stare"). Instead, they proceeded with "I feel awful." Also, in the part where Glinda said "All this time, the two of you..." Fiyero and Elphaba went straight to "It wasn't like that." Fiyero and Elphaba was supposed to answer "Yes/No" first but it was cut.  I also noticed that in the lines before Popular, it was Elphaba who said "That's not the secret" and not Galinda. They were just minor changes, but I guess it would have been fun to see them, too.

I Have Been Changed For Good
I came to watch Wicked in Manila filled with hopes and less expectations. I'm glad I did. It was the best three hours of my life. To the Australasian National Tour cast of Wicked, THANK YOU for letting us experience what life is like Oz; for sharing a beautiful story that none of us will ever forget, and a spectacular performance, even for just two hours and forty minutes. To Concertus, the company that brought Wicked here in Manila, YOU GUYS ROCK! It was definitely an event I will always remember.

"Imitating may be the best form of flattery, but not the best form of writing."

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