|1. No One Mourns The Wicked|
|2. Dear Old Shiz|
|3. The Wizard And I|
|4. What Is This Feeling?|
|5. Something Bad|
|6. Dancing Through Life|
|8. I'm Not That Girl|
|9. One Short Day|
|10. A Sentimental Man|
|11. Defying Gravity|
|12. Thank Goodness|
|14. I'm Not That Girl (Reprise)|
|15. As Long As You're Mine|
|16. No Good Deed|
|17. March Of The Witch Hunters|
|18. For Good|
|19. Finale "Wicked"|
When the production made its tryout stop in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance to see such a major new work make its way East. I will admit, I am not a fan of Gregory Maguire's book, which is a densely written experience that stopped me cold, despite its central conceit of being a revisionist Oz tale. While I found much to enjoy in WICKED's musical book, the show does play like the novel's greatest hits, streamlining the narrative into a mainstream tale of girl power, friendship, careful social commentary and human comedy. Writer Winnie Holtzman does a capable job, even if it lapses into shades of "My So-Called Life" angst.
The bigger admission is that I am not fond of Stephen Schwartz's musical canon, which I feel rests comfortably in the school of bad Disney ballads. Also, for show that is often introspective and laden with darkly personal themes, the songs do little to illuminate the characters' journeys.
Nope, the real selling point are its leads and they are worth the visit and the purchase of this disc.
Menzel and Chenoweth elevate the show to the sky with a pair of performances that are truly breathaking. Even their being handicapped by such pedestrian material like "The Wizard and I," "Popular" and "I'm Not that Girl" still makes you want to listen the CD again. Their combined vocal prowess makes the soon-to-be-sung at high schools forever finale "For Good" into one of the most touching ballads. And Menzel gives plenty of defiant fire to the vocal defying "Defying Gravity."
Menzel's performance as Elphaba (the future Wicked Witch of the West) comes across the strongest on disc given her share of power ballads, which she tears into with relish. The sunnily comic flourish of Chenoweth's stellar Galinda nee Glinda does suffer slightly without some of her fun speeches and timing. But, she's in wonderful voice and both women preserve their roles with gusto and style.
You can't help but wish the musical as a whole was better -- but to view these women in action, as well as Joe Mantello's eye-popping production -- will make for a rousing evening of theater.
Fans of the show will consider this disc a wonderful souvenir. Fans of musical theater beware, however. Sight unseen, you may find this WICKED less than enchanting. But once you take a listen to Menzel and Chenoweth, you may just start planning your next trip to NYC and see why its lead stars have transformed WICKED into the only real hit musical of the year.
The score is efficient, but never all it really might have been. After the remarkable "Defying Gravity" the score has nowhere to go, and it goes there fast. There are some agreeable moments, and "Popular" is an appealing little novelty number. Some of the other numbers verge on banality: Fiyero's song "Dancing Through Life" is an especially dull example of the weakness of much of the score.
Be thankful, though, that the CD spares the listener the appalling cop-out ending that the creators of the musical imposed upon the material. The material has pretensions of being much more than it ever gets around to being. It settles for being an easy story of female empowerment and friendship. Basically, they've turned the story into the Broadway musical version of what is popularly known as a "chick flick."
There are worse ways to spend your time. Of course, there are better ways, too.