Tag Archives: Broadway musicals

“Wicked” at the Hollywood Pantages

Although Christine and I saw the Tony-award-winning musical “Wicked” a couple weeks back, am finally just now getting around to blogging about it. But please don’t take the delay as a lack of enthusiasm, because this show rocked our world…HARD!

Not only are the songs great and totally catchy, but the story itself is really, really cool and after seeing the show in person at the Pantages, I gotta tell ya, “Wicked” is well on its way to being one of my favorite Broadway shows ever.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Christine how many times I’ve played the rocking soundtrack while cleaning the kitchen…let’s just say she knows all the songs by heart now too. Ha!

I don’t know if it’s the fact that the book of the musical was written by one of my favorite screenwriters, Winnie “My So-Called Life” Holzman, or the fact that it deals with such deep, socio-political issues in such a frothy, lighthearted way, but “Wicked” is way deeper and darker than it need be. And if you ask me, that is totally a good thing!

Loosely based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire, the musical version of “Wicked” is, on the surface, the story of what went down with the “The WIzard of Oz” witches Glinda and Elphaba (aka The Wicked Witch of the West) before Dorothy arrived on the scene. But deep down, the show is about how difficult it is to be different, and the price one pays for daring to stand up for something you believe in, in a society where it’s much easier to simply blend.

I know…deep, huh? I told you! If you’ve seen the classic movie (and, well…who hasn’t?) you know that the so-called Wizard of Oz is a fraud. One of my favorite things about this show is that when Elphaba learns this and threatens to expose the phony Wizard to all of Oz, she is quickly branded “wicked” by the powers that be and banished to a life in the shadows.

Hmm…you might almost say Elphaba is being “unpatriotic” by speaking up and, like some of her modern-day American contemporaries, she pays a stiff price for her views. Hell, there is even a song dealing with the fickle nature of history and how it is essentially written, and often re-written, by the victors. Really interesting stuff any way you look at it.

And when you couple all that depth of content with some seriously kick-ass songs by Stephen Schwartz — the first act closing number “Defying Gravity” will leave you breathless! — and those dazzling sets and costumes, this is a show for the ages, amigos. Even my brother, who generally loathes musicals, loved it.

But “Wicked” is leaving L.A. in January, so, if you live in town, check it out while you can at the Pantages. I mean, shit, even if you don’t like the show, you gotta love that theatre. Just looking up at all those cool green lights outside the facade…wow, it’s like the freaking Emerald City, baby! Awesome!!

Oh yeah, and despite what you read in the paper or online there are TONS of cheap seats available for all shows. We got $100 rear orchestra seats for $50 at Goldstar.com and if you buy you tickets in person at the Pantages box office, they’re even cheaper. Ryan and Laura paid $32.50 a seat the day of the show with not a handling fee in sight! Yee-haw!

Go, “Wicked”!

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Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd”

Finally saw Tim Burton’s rocking version of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” over the weekend and let me tell ya, it’s bloody good…emphasis on the bloody. Seriously, I haven’t seen this much spraying, operatic bloodletting since the first volume of “Kill Bill”, and that time, the bloodiest scenes were in black and white.

Well, not so here, amigos. Tim Burton’s bright, comic-book-red blood flows freely and often…and it couldn’t be cooler!

Johnny Depp as “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)

Save for the standards “Pretty Women” and “Not While I’m Around” — which are way darker in the context of the show than they are as stand-alone songs — I wasn’t that familiar with the original musical, but wow, it’s good. Christine found some of the numbers a bit stagey and claustrophobic, but I really dug the musty intimacy of it all.

Set in and around a gloomy, beautifully dank Victorian London, the movie and the songs are as dark as can be. And while the ads make it look like quirky, Tim Burton-lite, this movie is one of the darkest things he’s done in a while.

I found the songs and humor to be funny as hell, but I should warn the uninitiated that this “Sweeney Todd” is not for the feint of heart.

Johnny Depp singing in “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)
Anchoring the movie and proving once again that he can do almost anything onscreen, the always-astonishing Johnny Depp rocks in his first full-blown musical. Ditto for “Borat’s” Sasha Baron Cohen (as Depp’s hysterically oily rival, Pirelli), Alan Rickman as the villainous Judge Turpin, and the incredible little boy who plays Toby (newcomer Ed Sanders).
Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)

But fans of the musical know that the dark heart of the show has always been that wily scene-stealer, Mrs. Lovett.

I read somewhere that Stephen Soundheim loved her character so much that he actually demanded (and got!) final approval for the casting of Mrs. Lovett. And though Helena Bonham Carter wasn’t the best singer he auditioned, she was by far the best actress. And lemme tell ya, Soundheim was right. Helena Bonham Carter is spectacular in the role.

I’ve been a huge fan since I first saw her in “A Room With A View” and Carter has continued to amaze me ever since. If you haven’t seen her in “Fight Club” you haven’t lived. Not only did she blow Brad Pitt and Ed Norton off the screen, but her twisted, manic performance as Marla Singer is one of the great screen characters of the 1990’s. Really amazing stuff!

Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)

Here again, Ms. Carter — who gave birth Saturday to her second child, a daughter, with Tim Burton — rips into a really juicy part with a vengeance. And like her co-stars, I’m happy to report that Carter’s singing here is top notch. More traditionally Broadway-ish than Johnny Depp’s rock-infused vocals, Carter’s scrappy, Cockney-accented singing really steals the show.

And though the content of her “meat pies” would turn even my hearty stomach, I gotta say if Carter’s saucy Mrs. Lovett was selling them…I’d be the first in line!

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