It happens sometimes where life steps in the way of being able to watch all 16 Redskins games and this past weekend happened to be one of those times. Due to some obligations I had to be in New York and when in New York I have to take in a show on Broadway. This go around was a return visit to Wicked with my girlfriend who had never seen the show and isn’t a huge fan of musical theater. Much like I expected, she enjoyed it. It occurred to me that there are plenty of reviews out there about this long running broadway hit. Instead, this post is for the sports fan or theater fan out there who isn’t a fan of the musical and why this show (and a few others) are worth checking out.
For the completely uninitiated, Wicked is the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba) and Glinda from the Wizard of Oz. Yes, many of the other characters from the original movie make appearances or are referenced. And while you will have some frame of reference for the show it isn’t what should draw you to this show. This is one of the large scale Broadway musicals that really produces the special effects magic that can impress. In this show it is the Wicked Witch taking flight. If you sit for a moment you can figure out how they made it work, but it doesn’t take anything away from that jaw dropping moment that ends the first act. It is up there with the chandelier crashing to the stage in Phantom of the Opera, or the transformation of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast”. Stage magic at its best. For Wicked it is more than just the special effects, catchy singable tunes and humor interwoven throughout the production. There is a nice story of the popular girl and the outcast becoming friends and the paths each choose for themselves when the greatest of opportunities presents itself. And much like many of the more modern musical this isn’t about people randomly breaking into song and dance. The song and dance numbers are used to advance the story and not just an interlude to the next development in the story.
If you want to check out a musical Wicked is definitely one worth trying. But if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea there are other shows that may fit the bill. Want humor in a show then check out The Book of Mormon when it comes to The Kennedy Center in the summer of 2013. Written by the guys from South Park with a South Park sensibility. I was fortunate to see it on Broadway with the original cast and am looking forward to seeing it again this coming summer. And while it does a good send up of the Mormon religion it ultimately has a message of belief, even if it isn’t such a traditional one. The guys from South Park worked in producing this show with the creator of the musical Avenue Q. Think Sesame Street meets South Park. It is puppets and humans, but it is also a blast. Want some rock musicals? Try Rent, which is based in the 90s on the lower east side of Manhattan during the AIDS epidemic. Yeah, it isn’t necessarily an uplifting show and deals with some serious issues of that time, but it holds up well and has a rock and roll soundtrack. Similar is Spring Awakening, which is about late 1800’s German youths and the turmoil of growing up. The music for which was written by Duncan Sheik. Another rock musical you may want to check out is American Idiot, which is based upon the album of the same name written by Green Day. The national tour of that show is headed to Baltimore in the spring of 2013 at the Hippodrome. It’s one I am looking forward to finally taking in. And if it needs any more cred, Billie Joe of Green Day appeared in the show during the Broadway run before it closed. Another fun rock musical is “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”, which recently played a Studio Theater and is a “historical drama” of Andrew Jackson’s life as if he were an EMO rock star in 2012.
These are just some of the musicals that are re-writing what it means to be a musical in the past 15 years. Still not sold on the musical and are interested in sports? Well, there are shows based on the sports world as well. Neither are on broadway anymore, but in the past few years they have produced the shows “Lombardi” (yeah that Lombardi) and “Magic and Bird”. Heck, currently playing at Woolly Mammoth is a show based in the world of professional wrestling and is the next one up on my calendar.
Next Up: Saturday 9/22 “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” at Woolly Mammoth