Just like when I first saw a Broadway show in New York City, the first show I saw in Philly was an amazing experience. What a way to kick off what I hope will become a regular activity of Philly theater, with “Wicked the Musical!”
Months back, I read Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked,” which I loved. So, it was a must to follow up by seeing the musical. But I would have indulged in the story of Elphaba in either order because both the book and the show are amazing!
It was so beautiful inside the historic Academy of Music that I wanted to take some photos of its architectural details. As far as within the seating area, taking photos was prohibited. So I didn’t take any photos from my seat even before the show began. I didn’t take any photos of the lobby and hallway areas either since I wasn’t sure about that. But one of my favorite features was this wide, spiral staircase with a vibrant floral-patterned carpet. It was so glamorous!
There were only five minutes before the start of the show once sitting in a 2nd floor balcony area. My seat was in the front row and the view was excellent. As the curtains opened and the show went through Elphaba’s early years, I remembered back to Maguire’s book. I loved how well the musical performance relayed Elphaba and her story from birth to later years as a student at Shiz.
In the particular Aug. 3 show, Shayla Osborn performed the role of Elphaba and Cassie Okenka was cast as Glinda. They were both understudies and had amazing singing voices! Everyone in the cast was stellar in their roles, acting and singing. Among the characters, there is a great deal with which anyone can connect. An audience member could say that they were very much like one character, knew someone like another character or experienced a situation just like in their own school years. With that relatable aspect, corresponding effects as well as humorous, dramatic and tear-jerking moments, it was an overall phenomenal show!
Along with other aspects of the show, I loved the costumes because of how they reflected different personalities acted out. What Elphaba wore in particular would transform to be more like what we all recognize as a wicked witch outfit. Despite that image of wicked witch, there’s a good side to her. Glinda, with a perky demeanor, wore pretty and flirty attire. The theme of friendship between Elphaba and Glinda was touching; although they were very different, they each recognized a great value in knowing the other. The changes that happened to Boq and Fiyero connected those characters to familiar friends of Dorothy’s in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). As those two moments played out onstage, I thought of the stories between that movie and “Wicked” in terms of relationships between the witch and others.
When the Wizard first appeared onstage, there was wild cheering for him; in that role was John Davidson. Also, the goat professor, Doctor Dillamond, was performed by Clifton Davis. As I awaited the day of the show, I didn’t know whether or not there would be any famous names and faces from television or the movies. But afterward, I recognized Davidson from earlier photos of him. Some of his previous work, as listed on his IMDB profile, is very familiar. When looking up Davis’ IMDB profile, I remembered him from his television work as well.
I caught the show on the second to last day that it would be in Philly, but I’d love to see it again wherever possible. One thing’s for sure. It’s definitely been an Oz-themed year, what with reading Maguire’s book, seeing “Oz: the Great and Powerful” and then “Wicked the Musical.”
After the show, I was sitting on a plush-cushioned bench between two women and the one on my right began talking to some people she knew. As they talked about “Wicked” and theater in general, the woman sitting to my right continued her part of the conversation, saying something that wowed me. She said that the Academy of Music is supposed to be one of the best in the world for accoustics. Despite only seeing theater in two cities so far, I didn’t doubt what she said. It made me think, “What a wonderful compliment to hear about the first venue I went to for theater in Philly! Amazing show, amazing venue!” Who doesn’t love hearing such rave reviews for the places they go to, especially as first-timers?
Heading back to the Locust Street parking garage, I saw a crowd of fans gathered on the sidewalk and spilling beyond to the road. Two stars from the cast, Osborn and Okenka, were signing autographs for fans and getting pictures taken with them. I stopped to join them for autographs and photos as well.
This theater excursion to Philly gave way to some ideas for future things to do in the city. I hope to go see other shows at the Academy of Music in the future and whenever I do so, I’d love to go for lunch or dinner at Fado.
Something else I have to do in the city is to go on architectural tours. Whenever I go into Philly, there is always some interesting historic building detail that draws my attention. I try to take whatever pictures I can and walking to and from the Academy of Music last saturday was no different. But I’d love to get the story behind such buildings. Hearing their background from an architectural standpoint, (ex. why a certain feature was chosen, any symbolism) would make for a worthwhile day in Philly. Here are a few architectural details I noticed this time.
Philly has something in common with New York City in that there is still quite a lot that I haven’t seen. So, until next time, I look forward to more experiences in both cities. That especially goes for theater, a relatively new activity for me that I love already for the stunning talent and shows I’ve seen in beautiful venues!