Release Date: 12.16.03
Record label: Decca
Genre(s): Classical, Jazz
Great, as Far as it Goes
by: matt cibula
Let’s talk about the actual performances, though: they’re lovely. Wicked is a new musical by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, a bunch of other stuff) based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire; it takes a sympathetic look at the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West, here named Elphaba, how she got to be the way she was, and her complicated relationship with both Glinda the Good Witch and the Wizard. Not a bad idea for a musical, especially when you hear the opening number, “No One Mourns the Wicked.” Kristin Chenoweth, who plays Glinda, has a beautiful voice, and makes her role flighty and fun. But when someone asks if she knew Elphaba, we go into flashback mode…
It turns out that Elphaba, played by Idina Menzel, wasn’t always wicked. In fact, she was just a shy girl with special powers whose green skin freaked everybody out. After a whirlwind trip through their relationship, which includes the great song about how the two girls feel about each other at first called “Loathing,” we see that they were actually quite good friends, and that there was some drama between them over a boy, and then there’s something about mistreated animals and an evil schoolteacher…
Well, that’s where this album falls down. I love Schwartz’ melodies and little jokes (he keeps making up words like “braverism” and “clandestinedly”), I love Menzel and Chenoweth and even Joel Grey as the Wizard…and that’s all. Because there is nothing to follow here. Too much of this musical relied on Winnie Holzman’s (probably very witty) book, and there is no explanation in the CD booklet about how we go from song to song. No explanation, no hints, nothing.
So it’s jarring as hell when Elphaba suddenly runs off to the woods with the boy Fiyero—why is she running away? What has she done that’s so awful that everyone hates her? What’s the deal with Madame Morrible? Why are Glinda and Elphaba singing about how much they’ve learned from each other, when we just have seen them stabbing each other in the back? You want answers, you have to read this stuff on the Internet, because you’re not going to get it in this CD.
So I guess this is okay if you want some highly amped show tunes, and if you want to hear what Mrs. Taye Diggs sings like. (That would be the beauteous Idina Menzel.) But if you actually want to understand what the hell is going on…this album will not be your friend. 26-Feb-2004 12:08 PM