The girl with the green skin will forever be Elphaba in the hearts of many around the world. I, myself, have named my dog Elphie, a nickname for Elphaba in Wicked the musical and Wicked the novel. Needless to say, I was expecting an amazing, nearly perfect show at Greenville’s Peace Center. A traveling Broadway tour may not be on Broadway, but it should always be Broadway material. I do have to mention that I went during a matinee on their last Sunday in Greenville. This isn’t the best time to see a show. The actors are tired and restless; the crew wants to strike props and get the set down and packed. The traveling shows are not going to be their best on their last Sunday matinee.
The stage is set and the curtain opens 10 minutes late. The audience is on the edge of their seat waiting to be awed by the musical spectacular. We meet Glinda, in her heavily sequined dress, entering and exiting the stage by a circle representing a bubble. The residents of Oz are singing their hearts out, along with Glinda to tell the audience about how, “the wickedest witch there ever was is dead. Good news, she’s dead.” The costumes are extravagant and vivacious, most wearing shades of green.
We continue the story in a semi-permanent flashback that takes the audience back to Shiz, the university where Glinda and Elphaba meet. Glinda arrives in fashion on a mountain of expense luggage, while Elphaba arrives pushing her sister in a wheelchair. Up until now, the show was been wonderful and everything you could ever want, except for one thing.
We had the understudy for Elphaba.
Elphaba isn’t supposed to be overly feminine or high-pitched, but Elphaba’s voice isn’t supposed to sound similar to James Earl Jones. She and Glinda were about to sing a song about how they hated each other. I was excited but nervous because so far, Elphaba seemed as if she was going to let me down in terms of her vocal ability. I, unfortunately, was not wrong.
Their harmonies weren’t bad; when Elphaba attempted one of her high notes in the song, “What is This Feeling?” my eyes popped out of my head. She cracked. She didn’t crack just a little; this woman, who has been on Broadway, cracked big time. I appreciate that she kept going, but wow. It was the crack heard ‘round the world.
The show went on, as it must. She played her part as well as she could. She continued to mess up small things. She would jump a line, or drop a prop. I have a feeling this was one of her first shows as Elphaba and she was very excited. She should be excited; she should be over-the-moon about how she gets to play one of the most sought after, beloved roles in Musical history. I’m sure these mistakes were because of her nerves, but there is only so much you can mess up without the audience becoming royally angry.
The final failure for this production was Elphaba’s song, Defying Gravity. This is a pivotal moment in the musical. Elphaba realizes what she is meant to do in life and she decides to leave all of her friends and family behind to change the world. Deep right?
Well, it should be. She was doing well for about half of the number, and then the high notes crept closer. I knew they were coming and I was nervous about her ability to hit the note with the grace and ease that is needed in the song. The first round of high notes came and went without much trouble. The last note barely crawled out of her vocal chords. You saw in her face that she wanted to hit the notes, but in reality she only came so close. In most things, coming really close isn’t bad. In the climactic moment of such a well known musical, close doesn’t cut it.
Again, the show continued.
Spoiler Alert: In the end, Elphaba “dies” when Dorothy pours a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West. In the happy ending, Elphaba actually gets away with her beloved by sneaking out of a trap door which she was standing on when Dorothy “killed” her. This incident prompts the townspeople to sing “No One Mourns the Wicked.” I hated to say it, but I agreed.
No one mourns the woman who let down her entire show.