When Val and I first started dating, she treated me to Les Miserables at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts in Houston, Texas. I was ecstatic. This was a show I dreamed of seeing for ever and now I finally get to see it and how this moving circle thing with people walking on it works….
I also didn’t know and/or realize this would be the beginning of a long, long list of shows that Val and I would end up seeing in our lives together.
Now back in Houston I left feeling, in a word, “meh” about the whole experience. But then again, I’ve hated the acoustics in that theater (don’t get me started about the 2nd time I saw Rent and couldn’t even hear the first act) so I wasn’t surprised.
So when we heard that Les Mis was coming to Chicago, we bought the season ticket package and were off! It was the first show of the new season!
|this was taken leaving Wicked 2 months before
So we were off with some high hopes of seeing this epic show in a new light. I read about how it’s been redone for the 25th Anniversary. The turning center of the stage is gone. There’s new stage scenery and some new technology? I’m interested!
Unfortunately though, we left with the same “meh” feeling once more. I think that was the last chance I’m giving Les Miserables on stage. Though the music continues to move me. I think we just haven’t seen any strong individuals in this show. No one’s voice is carrying the way that they use to in the Les Mis shows of old (and on CDs) so our expectations are high. As an ensemble though the weight that the songs have is amazing.
Luckily we knew the lyrics because some of them ended up getting lost for whatever reason. Muffled sounds. So weird in such a great theater! Valjean was just a loud singer. Nothing to write home about. Fantine made me cringe at times. Éponine was actually one of my favorites. And then later on the train ride home we had a laugh about how the auditions must be for Young Cossette. The child’s voice almost sounds recorded because no matter what production you’re seeing ‘Castle on a Cloud’ sounds *exactly* the same!
The changes I happened to like while Val did not. The lack of the moving stage didn’t bother me too much. Now there’s a screen behind them showing a road (or sewer etc) and the perception of it makes it seem like they’re actually moving. The sewer scene made me slightly nauseous even with how it made my sense feel like I was watching a movie! Also, *SPOILER ALERT* for the death of Javier, that was much better than the actor jumping off the “bridge” and down the stage hole below. He is now hoisted and hovers flailing his arms and legs while the scene moves behind him quickly giving the illusion of falling down. It was beautiful (I guess as suicide can be?) and that image has still stuck with me.
Also of course, the epic battle scene (or as I like to call it “EVERYONE DIES!!!”). They really make you feel like you’re behind the barricade with them. Feel every loud gun shot and feel for every fallen solider.
All-in-all I’m very happy we tried again. Oddly enough though the new Les Miserables in Concert was on WTTW when we got home off the train and we ended up watching most of that for the rest of the evening. Now THAT is what the singing in our show should have sounded like!! Besides Nick Jonas that is. Talk about one of these things is not like the other. His voice does NOT carry with the power in everyone else’s. Kinda feel for the guy…..
What are your experiences with Les Miserables? Have you seen the updated version? Like it or loathe it?
Back in 2006 when we first moved to Chicago, Wicked was in the middle of it’s three year run at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts or as I call it shortly, the Oriental Theatre. It was amazing having that downtown on State and Randolph. The green lights all under the marquee were a sight that could not be missed while walking down State.
And we splurged once in our ‘days of poor’ after first moving from small town Texas to a large city. We got the cheapest tickets waaay in the back of the theater. And it was worth eating cruddier food for the week! The show was amazing and magical just as I had hoped. After promising ourselves we had to go back again, with better seats, it kept falling behind other shows that appeared and then *poof* Wicked had left Chicago.
But one magical Christmas season, it decided to come back for a limited holiday engagement! And here’s where we really dorked out….we already need Rock of Ages tickets as it was, and now these, so Val went the morning the tickets went on sale! They gave away promo t-shirts to the first 50 purchasers and we scored one – which is a neat shirt since it’s specifically says “Chicago” on it and it’s not just the generic Wicked shirt. Plus it’s bright green and awesome.
So Christmas Eve we were finally off to see the show – and like it usually does for Christmas in Chicago, the snow started falling and it was gorgeous.
|Outside the Cadillac Palace Theater
This time Wicked was in the Cadillac Palace Theater, which we had only been in once to see Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neeley. It’s yet another great venue in the Chicago Theater District.
As we do every show, we partook in our usually pre-show cocktails. Although it is odd that you can bring food and drink inside theaters now. The set was about the same as it was in the Oriental Theatre, but a tad smaller.
|Inside the Cadillac Palace
With it being Christmas Eve there were loads of children and tourists in the theater. But for this show I didn’t mind. Throughout the show there were two dressed up little girls who kept sitting up out of their chairs, but you know…we’ve seen this show before. And it’s Christmas. Let them bob up and down out of excitement!
Wicked is a show I can listen to over and over again on my iPod and never get tired of it. I have emotional attachment to a lot of the songs and it gets me either choked up or giddy listening to them. Either way they’re quite powerful.
|Me outside Wicked with my free shirt!
‘Defying Gravity’ of course is the first act’s ending song. And it’s amazing. The first time we saw it Val said she wanted to play Elphaba just for that song (and still does). ‘As Long As Your Mine’ is one that makes me think of the love for my wife. ‘I’m Not That Girl’ takes me back to my lonely days in high school and college where I couldn’t ever seem to get a date (not that I’m complaining now! Looking back that saved me a lot of heart ache I’m sure!). And then there’s ‘For Good’ which was the first song I heard from Wicked and it was unfortunately sung at a friend’s funeral. She’s the one I give credit too for introducing me to Broadway musicals and it was a perfect song for her at her funeral. Now though, I don’t see it quite as somber but in fact uplifting and a mature song as two friends discover they must part their separate ways.
|Val with the witch hat drawing box
One thing that definitely made me smile was listening to a mother tell her son and daughter what the play was showing. She proceeded during the intermission to talk to them about how Elphaba really isn’t Wicked but that’s just how people perceive her. And then went into how we shouldn’t treat someone differently just based on the way that they look. And that most people have a huge heart and are kind. Awwww……this was a great thing to hear at a show and during the holiday season!
All-in-all, the show wasn’t *as* amazing as I recall from 2007(ish) but it was still pretty darn awesome. I cried. I admit it. The songs that Stephen Schwartz did are just fantastic. And I was a fan of the book before this came out so we’ve been connected for a long time!
And now there’s going to be a TV show about the book. A series of Wicked!? Yes please and thank you (if done well that is!)
The only way I think Wicked could possibly be better for me is if Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth reprised their roles in it. I would buy those tickets in a heartbeat.
But this probably won’t happen….or it could. I thought the same thing about Rent once and then this happened:
See kids? Dreams do come true if you wait long enough!
Okay, I started the Local Touring Chicago blog and made it up to two posts – so here’s hoping I can do better with this one.
If there’s one thing my wife and I do a lot of, it’s attend shows in Chicago (and elsewhere as this year will bring!). We’re now season ticket holders with Broadway in Chicago and also hit up the smaller theaters around town as well.
If that wasn’t enough our wedding was musical themed.
Complete with a different Playbill cover on each tabletop with the different shows we’ve seen so far!
And also one can’t forget the wedding favors! How’s about some Playbill beer pints? Yes please!
In any case, we love the theater, and mainly musical theater. Lately, we’ve had some hits and misses. Some surprises good and bad. So I’ll start this blog from the beginning of the year….well, almost the beginning. I’ll start with Christmas Eve here in Chicago when we saw Wicked!
Enjoy the blog and hope it helps you decide what shows you may or may not have an interest in! Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the shows or the blog itself! Look forward to it.