Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Monday, June 21, 2010

A "Wicked" Night

Well, over a month ago, my wife bought tickets for us to see "Wicked" as a birthday/Father's Day present. I have been listening to, and enjoying, the music from the musical for several years now and it has come to the Fox Theatre in St. Louis several times since I first heard it, but the timing was never right for me to see it. Having memorized most of the music, as well as having read the book years ago, I was really looking forward to experiencing the entire musical story for the first time and was pretty sure Lisa would also like it as well.

We left the house two and a half hours early, so we could grab a bite to eat and then be in our seats with plenty of time to spare. Since we had eaten a late lunch and weren't really hungry, we decided to swing by Lowes and look at some things that we hadn't been able to do with Lydia in tow. A half hour later, we left armed with some good information and an idea about what we wanted to do on an upcoming house project. With plenty of time to spare, we stopped at a Home Depot on the way to check their selection/prices. As I turned off the car, Lisa noticed some steam coming out from under the hood.

I popped the hood and saw that the steam was coming from a radiator hose on top. We then went into the store to cool off and browse a bit. Fifteen minutes later we were back in the car and it started fine and there was no engine temperature trouble of warning lights. So off we went. About a mile down the highway the temperature jumped and I took the next exit. With steam pouring out from under the hood, I eased the car into a gas station and parked in some shade. The radiator coolant container was completely empty, which would explain why we overheated. Lisa went into the station and the attendant gave us a bucket of water. I promptly filled the reservoir and let it sit for a few minutes.

1 hour to Showtime

We made the decision to return home and swap out the cars. The timing would be tight, but we might get to the theatre in time for the start of the show. We made it less than 5 miles and the engine temperature shot up again and the check oil light came on. I pulled off into another gas station and this time both Lisa and I went in. She headed toward the Diet Coke fountain and I grabbed some coolant and oil. As we were checking out, the cashier lady said "Happy early Father's day" to me. Lisa explained that we had a little one already at home with one on the way. The cashier then said something about it being too hot outside for Lisa to be pregnant. Lisa explained what our situation was and that we were trying to get to this show. The cashier finished the transaction and said 'You guys are way calmer than I would be." I filled up the reservoir again, added a quart of oil and off we went in our hot car.

20 minutes to Showtime

We called my father and asked him to bring us the other car and meet us at a midway point. After less than 3 miles, it became clear that we were not going to make it to that midway point without another stop. I pulled into an old abandoned gas station and filled the reservoir once again. This time the car would not restart. I tried a couple of times before calling dad to have him come to our current location. As soon as I was off the phone with dad, I called our car insurance towing service and began setting up the arrangements to have the vehicle towed to our usual service garage. Dad showed up before I was off the call and we were on our way home.

Showtime

We pulled into the driveway right about the time the curtain was going up at the Fox Theatre. We both ran in real quick to use the restroom and then we were back out the door and on our way to the show. At this point, we figured we were going to be at least 45 minutes late, but we were “determined to succeed” and were also pretty certain that there was no way we could exchange the tickets for another show. Throughout the drive, Lisa tried several different numbers to see if we could speak to someone about the possibility of exchanging the tickets, but could never get anyone on the phone.

I was trying to figure out what we might be missing, so I could maybe explain it to Lisa before we got to the theatre. Without knowing what dialogue or scenes took place in between the songs I knew, I was guessing that we might miss 5 or 6 songs. I thought that we might miss through “Dancing Through Life”, whose lyrics were at this point reverberating in my head: “Woes are fleeting, blows are glancing, when you're dancing through life...” For some reason, I was flipping the song order around in my head, and was certain we would have missed “Popular” by the time we entered the building.

Being as late as we were, there was no traffic on the road to the theatre. We followed some parking lot signs and ended up on the street that runs alongside of the Fox Theatre. The lot was full and the only sign we saw was a lot for Handicapped parking. I pulled the car into the lot and the young attendant walked over with a quizzical look on his face. I asked him if we could park in the lot or if he knew where there was another available lot. He hesitated and turned around to ask the older attendant if we could park there. After a few moments of thought, the older man said “Yeah. Park them in #3.” So we pulled right into that slot that is reserved for Fox Club patrons only, did not have to pay for parking and hurried inside.

45 minutes after Showtime

We hustled through the lobby, without glancing twice at the merchandise for sale. Immediately, our heard “Dancing Through Life” just starting to play and was thrilled to have made it to hear the song. We made our way up several flights of stairs and had a kind gentlemen point us in the right direction. After the handoff, a nice lady usher led us into the dark theatre where we quickly took our seats. Since they were in the second row on the aisle, we did not have to disturb anyone around us or inhibit anyone else’s view of the performance while getting to our proper seats. I sat down in my seat and was pleasantly surprised a few minutes later that we hadn’t missed “Popular”.

I cannot tell you how the “Wicked” performance begins. I cannot tell you how the first few songs song live. I cannot speak to certain scenes and dialogue. What I can tell you is that at the moment I sat down, I was the sweatiest, most out of breath, latest arrival who was absolutely thrilled to be there.

God provided us with family to help watch Lydia, family to help us with our car issues, insurance to deal with the car issues, a free parking spot that we should never have been allowed to park in, helpful attendants to get us to our seats quickly and the opportunity to be entertained by some very remarkable performers. I’m thankful that He granted me patience and the ability to remain calm through what was a pretty frustrating and stressful couple of hours and that He allowed me to marry someone who understands me (probably better than I do).


A Review of “Wicked”

The remainder of the night was all that I had hoped and I was incredibly pleased with all of the performances. The set of “Wicked” is not nearly as elaborate as “Phantom of the Opera”, but it is functional and does not detract from the story or music. The characters are introduced and developed in a very natural way, with numerous one liners thrown in that tie the story of “Wicked” directly to “The Wizard of Oz”. As Lisa stated to me after the fact, they do a good job of having Dorothy be a part of the story, without allowing her be a part of the scenery. I agree with my wife that not showing Dorothy allows the story of “Wicked” to stand on its own merits and not cause the audience to be distracted by the farm girl.

The music was perfectly played, with no noticeable mistakes. The vocalists nailed their notes and, for the most part, their diction allowed the hearer to understand without difficulty the message. There were a few moments where a microphone seemed to have a little trouble picking up a line clearly, but for the most part the sound was well-managed. Although I felt that there were times in the duets where one voice seemed to be lost in the other, making it hard to hear the harmonies clearly, I cannot hold this against the sound engineer, as in live theatre so much is left in the hands of the vocalists.

I do not have a broad experience with Broadway productions of musicals. It may be more than most, but it is not very diverse or artsy in nature. I prefer the mainstream musicals that have proven incredibly popular over time. I would place “Wicked” in the top tier of productions I have seen and would not have any hesitation in recommending it to any adult. I think “Wicked” tells an intriguing story, using interesting characters that perform some really amazing songs.

I am pretty sure I will see it again, although perhaps next time I could do it without all of the drama on the way to the theatre.

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