The Closer: Season 3
Wicked: The Original Broadway Cast Recording
Music & Lyrics By: Stephen SchwartzProduced By: Decca Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I’ve been an incredible fan of the Wicked series by Gregory Maguire. The concept that the Wicked Witch of the West was not as evil as we were led to believe by the tales written about the land of Oz is quite refreshing. I have read the first two novels of the series and can’t wait to get to the third which is written in the Cowardly Lion’s point of view. My sister and brother-in-law have been raving about the Broadway Musical based on Wicked for years, but I have never had the opportunity…or money – Broadway tickets are a tad expensive these days – to see it. When I saw Wicked: The Original Broadway Cast Recording for sale at Amazon.com, I couldn’t resist buying myself a copy so I could get a taste of exactly what I’ve been missing.
As I had been warned, there are some differences between the Broadway musical and the book. For one thing, Elphaba and company do not often break out into song in the novel. Some items have been changed or shortened to keep the interest of the viewer. To have included every little nuance of the novel would have made for one verrry long play and I’m sure that it would be difficult to sit still for that long. Winnie Holzman adapted the novel into a form best suited for musical concept – short and sweet while still in keeping with the basic tenets of the novel.
In listening to this CD, I have the impression that the Broadway musical is somewhat of a look into Glinda the Good Witch’s memory. Things begin with the celebration of the death of the Wicked Witch and we hear Glinda hinting at the idea that Elphaba was not always wicked: “Are people born Wicked? / Or do they have Wickedness thrust upon them?” We are then treated to a glimpse at the birth of Elphaba in all her greenness. Things move on and we learn how Elphaba and Glinda, or Galinda as she was called back then, meet at the famed Shiz school located in Oz. As the story progresses, Elphaba takes up the fight for Animal (animals with sentient qualities) Rights, going to the Wizard in hopes that he will support her in her quest. When she is flatly turned down by the Wizard, Elphaba takes up the fight on her own, at dire consequences for those she loves. Cast out and dealing with more pain than any average person can endure, Elphaba vows revenge.
The very first thing you notice while listening to o Wicked: The Original Broadway Cast Recording is the power and beauty of the voice of Elphaba as performed by Idina Menzel. Glinda, as performed by Kristin Chenoweth, has a great voice, but nowhere near as powerful as that of Elphaba. This is done by design. Had Elphaba’s voice not been as beautiful or as captivating, her character would not be held in such high regard by the audience. Glinda, after all, is a flighty character concerned with looks and materialistic things, whereas her friend Elphaba is a shy woman who is less concerned with looks (how do you hide the fact that you are the only green person to be found?) and more concerned with the plight of the beings of Oz under the rule of the Wizard. We are to take Elphaba’s character seriously and Glinda’s in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Some of the most notable performances on the album can be found in the songs I’m Not That Girl, a song in which Elphaba mourns the fact that she is not as attractive as Glinda and therefore will never land the man of her desire; Defying Gravity , sung after Glinda and Elphaba’s unsuccessful visit to the Wizard in which Elphaba declares her independence from the confines of Oz and bids farewell to her friend: “So if you care to find me / Look to the western sky / As someone told me lately / ‘Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly / And if I’m flying solo / At least I’m flying free”; and No Good Deed, a song in which Elphaba mourns the loss of all she holds dear and vows vengeance on those who have harmed her beloved.
Funny and enjoyable performances can be found in Popular, a song in which Glinda vows to aide Elphaba in becoming popular, a goal which Glinda deems the most important goal of every girl; What Is This Feeling , a song performed by Glinda and Elphaba upon their discovery that they are to be roommates at Shiz: “What is this feeling / So sudden and new? / I felt the moment / I laid eyes on you…Loathing / Unadulterated loathing…There’s such a strange exhilaration / In such total detestation”; and Something Bad during which Doctor Dillamond discusses the bad things happening to Animals in Oz. Of course, you only realize how funny this song is if you know that the professor is actually a Goat.
I must admit that I am very happy at my purchase. Wicked: The Original Broadway Cast Recording satisfied my interest in the musical quite well. The songs created by Stephen Schwartz portrayed the characters in just the same light as I expected, adding just the right amount of drama, wit and fun that were present in the novel. I often found myself singing along with the songs…thanks to the aide of the booklet insert containing lyrics to every song on the album. I marveled at the incredible vocals of Idina Menzel. I can’t wait to listen to the soundtrack again! So, if you are a fan of the novel series or of the musical, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Wicked: The Original Broadway Cast Recording – you won’t be disappointed!