Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken (The SOB Overview)

The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken (The SOB Overview)

George Gershwin Theatre, New York, NY

As the celebration for the fifth anniversary of Broadway's Wicked continues, Monday night treated fans of the musical to a benefit reading of the tuner's very first draft. Cleverly entitled The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken, the evening served as a fundraiser for the New York Restoration Project.

As entertaining as the evening was -- particularly with previous Elphabas (Stephanie J. Block and Shoshana Bean) and Glindas (Jennifer Laura Thompson and Kate Reinders) mixing it up with the likes of wannabe Madame Morribles (Joy Behar), Boqs (Mark Indelicato), Wizards (George Wendt) and Fiyeros (Daniel Reichard and Matthew Settle) -- it was clear to any Wicked fan that when all was said and done, Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, who composed the score and wrote the book, respectively, made the right decisions on what to excise and what to keep.

Although not everyone was in finest of voice, Block and Thompson proved yet again why they were such naturals for their roles -- and remember, Block tackled the role of Elphaba in early readings prior to Idina Menzel taking over the role for the show's Broadway debut.

There were plenty of ad-libbed moments, ranging from comments on how it was painfully obvious why something had long since been altered to the political. Mario Cantone compared the old goat that is Wicked's Dr. Dillamond to John McCain, while Behar, in delivering Madame Morrible's screed on Elphaba, threw in a reference to Sarah Palin by adding, "this witch, this hockey mom." Another ad lib came from Wendt. When he hit the stage, one woman in the audience found it necessary to shout, "Norm!" to which he responded by simply saying, "Edna!" -- alluding to his current gig in Broadway's Hairspray.

If there was one major highlight, it came from a surprising source -- Mario Cantone. Known in part for his impersonations of both Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, the actor singlehandedly stole the show when he came out to pinch hit for Glinda midway through the performance. In a little tête-à-tête with Block, who made her Broadway debut as Minnelli in The Boy From Oz, Cantone momentarily dished Lizaesque before launching into his own hilarious rendition of "Popular." He was, in a word, priceless.

The evening also offered the adoring crowd an opportunity to salute Schwartz and Holtzman, who took to the stage at the reading's close. Holtzman graciously deflected the applause toward "Wicked" author Gregory Maguire, while Schwartz offered that he's looking forward to celebrating Wicked's success yet again in another five years.

I hope to be there to cheer them on yet again.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 29 October, 2008, Blogger Dale said...

Sounds like it was a whole lot of fun. Mario Cantone is so damned funny. I loved his show "Laugh Whore" although I didn't see it live but rather the special. I would have loved to see Joy Behar live too. You're living the dream Steve!

At 30 October, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The promotions for this event seriously misrepresented what was being performed. No scenes, no costumes. Only six chairs on the stage and people in everyday clothes reading from pages. I flew to New York from Colorado just to see this supposedly spectacular event of what I was told by the ticket agent was a full performance of the show with the original songs and scenes. This was a waste of my hard earned money. I wonder how many other people feel like they got ripped off!!!

At 30 October, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your perspective. Personally, I went in thinking first and foremost that this was a benefit performance. Unlike you, I had no preconceived notions of what the show would be like and was actually delighted that it was as much of an act as what we saw.

Prior to purchasing my ticket, the way I saw it represented was as follows:
"Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book writer Winnie Holzman will share some of the scenes and early songs from the musical blockbuster, featuring never-before-seen material performed publicly for the first time by an all-star cast. Directed by Matt Lenz."
I took that to mean that the cast would come out and only sing discarded songs in street clothes. Having the full original first act read was a bonus.

If the event was misrepresentated by a ticket agent, I would take the issue up directly with them. But I would not blame to benefit performance. And here's the silver lining for you: most if not all of the ticket price is tax-deductible. Call your ticket agent to find out exactly how much is.

At 30 October, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Steve, for your expertise on showbiz terms. I'm only a simple farmer in Colorado and when I see the "performed publicly for the first time", I would expect a full, costumed performance of acting the parts not reading from scrpts in a folder. I honestly took this to be similar to a director's cut of a movie, where previously cut scenes would be added to the full feature to make the complete original draft performance. The all star cast mentioned didn't interest me because I have never heard of any of those people. The Playbill web page could have put a disclaimer somewhere stating that this was not an actual performance of the show in any way for those of us who wouldn't know and have never seen the actual show or read the book. I had no idea who any of the characters or events were. Even Ticketmasters, where I purchased my tickets from, was unaware that this was not an actual performance of Wicked. But all is not lost for me. I will see Wicked the next time I'm in New York and I hope this benefit thing was successful for whoever it was supposed to help.

At 30 October, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, I can completely appreciate how you may have thought you'd be seeing what you had hoped to see. I'm sorry that it didn't work out that way.

Here's hoping your next journey to Broadway will be much more positive, including taking in a performance of Wicked the way it was meant to be seen.


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