“PILGRIMS”

The world is in turmoil. So I thought I’d post this peaceful poem to counter the  storm inside. Forgot what year it was that I wrote this, though…Hope you like it 🙂

PILGRIMS

Cumulus clouds

over a sea

of coconut trees

waving goodbye…

as I travel through

this seeming maze

of endless roads

and kaleidoscope thoughts;

as friends hold on

to snapshots of today,

of golden memories

and happy laughter.

We wallow in

our moment of existence,

in this sweet, precious moment,

and we bear witness

to the sun

leaving orange southern skies.

Copyright © J.Gi Federizo

WICKEDly Ozsome!

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More than two weeks ago, I had already extinguished any hopes of ever seeing the Manila run of one of my most-awaited musicals, a part of my Broadway bucket list. It was just days to go and poof! The show would be gone again. I unfortunately could not go and see it. It just. Wasn’t. Possible…Until, in a wickedly awesome fashion, something magical happened.

Suddenly, there it was, the ticket in my hands, made possible by prayer, hope, and a magical thing called friendship. The universe thought to make it work for me. I won’t delve much on my meaning, but that person knows already how much I appreciated it. To you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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Idina Menzel was first to play Elphaba (WICKED). She reprised her Broadway role in RENT The Musical onscreen alongside husband Taye Diggs. On TV, she notably had recurring roles in the hit show Glee

Now, in case the title of this post and the image and video above aren’t enough give-away clues, I am referring to WICKED The Musical. I can’t believe it’s a decade old already!

Long-before the song “Let It Go” from the Frozen movie became everyone’s favorite, Idina Menzel (yes, that’s the right name) first made the song “Defying Gravity” famous by originating the role of Elphaba, the thoroughly green, thoroughly misunderstood witch in the Land of Oz. The role won for Idina a Tony. (See the next video to watch Idina sing “Defying Gravity” onstage with Kristin Chenoweth playing Glinda The Good. Idina’s lovely recorded album version can be found HERE, just click on it.)

I had known about this and about her for a long time and kept wishing that WICKED would find its way to Manila. Well, as they say, good things come to those who wait (and those who cross their fingers for good measure). It turned out it was the Australian production that came here to perform at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) as part of their Asian tour. Ooh, Oz bringing Oz to Manila! I did wish for Idina, but some things aren’t meant to be.

My friends and I pretty much got good seats that night. Not that near that even my 20/20 vision could not give me a much clearer view of everyone’s face on stage. Not that far either, which was a real blessing for I have always been vocal about how I hate the way the CCP auditorium is structured, a real let-down if you happen to sit at the top rows. Binoculars were actually offered outside for people to get a better view but we opted not to buy/rent any. I just wish I didn’t forget to bring mine. I wanted to kick myself (utterly impossible to do it, really).

I have to say it was a really fun night. I had expected it for a long time and indeed, the production did very well. But first, if you’re still unfamiliar with it (and don’t want to watch the first posted video here), a background on the show:

Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, or simply WICKED  The Musical, is an adaptation of Gregory Maguire‘s 1995 novel Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This, in turn, somehow serves as a prequel to the Frank L. Baum classic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 1939 film adaptation The Wizard of Oz that brought fame to Judy Garland. In 1978, there was a film adaptation of the then-Broadway version, The Wiz, with musical greats Diana Ross and Michael Jackson headlining an all Afro-American cast that included other celebs doing some cameo.

Baum’s book was about a young girl, Dorothy, who, together with her dog Toto and her new-found friends — The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion and  The Scarecrow — saved the Land of Oz from the Wicked Witch of the West with the help of the Good Witch of the South and two magical red shoes.

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A cover version of Gregory Maguire‘s WICKED: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I have a copy of the sequel Son of a Witch, but I’m not sure if I want to read it already since I haven’t read the first yet. We’ll see…

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This is the original title page of Frank L. Baum‘s book. In later versions, the “Wonderful” was dropped from the title

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This is Dorothy (Judy Garland) with her three friends in the 1939 movie that made the songs from its 1902 Broadway musical famous, particularly “Over the Rainbow” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”

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The main cast of the all Afro-American film The Wiz (fr. left): Ted Ross. Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Michael Jackson

As said, WICKED and the book it was based on serve as prequel, to supposedly explain the events that have led to the Wicked Witch’s own demise. But things aren’t always as they seem, especially in Oz. As the show itself says, “So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.” Told in the point of view of the two witches, mostly by the Good Witch, we learn of a history of friendship between them before they become frenemies. More importantly, we learn who truly deserves to be called “wicked.”

The show starts with Glinda The Good announcing the death of the Wicked Witch. Everyone rejoices until someone boldly asks something like, “We heard you were friends with her.” So then, we are thrust back in time as Glinda recounts mostly in her head what happens before, during and after she becomes friends with the “beautifully tragic” Elphaba, who is literally as green as can be.

good-wicked-witchThese two loathe each other at the start because they believe themselves so different from the other. Glinda, a closet bully, describes her new roommate as “Unuuuusually and exceeedingly peculiar and aaaltogether impossible to descriiibe,” like words are not enough to explain Elphaba; Elphie, the nerdy loner, describes her new roommate as “Blonde,” like that says it all.

I will stop here or I won’t be able to then tell the whole story and be the bad egg that spoiler freaks are made of. I’ll jump to my actual comments.

First, the set…WIC-KEEED!!! Having had a bit of a background knowledge of how things go down in this production, I still loved the way everything was put together. It was nowhere near The Phantom of the Opera (POTO), but it was still a great and totally awesome set.

Whenever I watch plays and musicals, while most eyes are glued on the actors, mine are always busy checking out the sets and props. It gives me a kind of a different high that I can’t describe, like I want to know each set’s story: how is it made, what makes it work, who handles everything, do the handlers ever get confused and make mistakes…If I’d known I’d be this interested, I should have paid closer attention in class.

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What the stage looks like before the show starts and during intermission. Cool dragon above 🙂

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One look of the stage

Second, the costumes. I imagine that Oz being somewhere in a kind of alternate universe, the costume designer needed not be constrained with period clothes and such. There was a lot of freedom incorporated in the costumes, the designer making the ultimate decisions, like how something should look on whom and where. They made sure to create a distinction between the “regular” clothes and those of the people of Emerald City. The City dwellers dressed up lavishly, if not weirdly, and vibrantly, especially in green. Elphie found herself a shoo-in — finally, a place where she belonged!

I should really mention two things. One (and, I guess, this falls under under costume?), they should have just left out those three giant puppets dancing with the rest of the Emerald City citizens when the two girls arrived. As all others were just humans, they seemed really out of place and played no importance at all to the whole story, in my opinion. On a more personal note, they looked like clowns and weird-looking clowns give me the creeps, ha ha! Two, and in contrast, a welcome kind of creeps were what I felt when the monkeys grew wings. I didn’t expect it and it made me go “yikes”…Love it.

Third, the sounds and music. Good enough sound quality, although I don’t know if it’s the actors, but many times, when there’s an ensemble singing, the group didn’t sound that clear (can’t say the same for those who sat nearer to the stage). I had to try and strain my ears just to get what they were saying. Also, I am not sure if the assumption was true, but somebody said some parts were lip synced. I’d like to believe they weren’t, given that it’s a professional, touring production. So I am left wondering. Nevertheless, I didn’t really mind.

The songs, themselves, were very nice, sometimes really meaningful and even catchy. Stephen Schwartz is a genius with his music and lyrics. I’ve been singing the songs over and over everyday! Talk about last song syndrome.  Again, “Defying Gravity” along with “Popular” were easy favorites. I liked, too, the sentimental “I’m Not That Girl” and its reprise. Another one of my favorites is “For Good,” a very beautiful and rather sad friendship song. (See the last video posted here to listen to this song.)  

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Fourth, the story. Well, I had a bit of a knowledge on what the musical was going to be about, and I do mean bit there so, unlike with POTO and Cats The Musical, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Somebody gifted me with a live Broadway show recording years ago (so nice of her, bless her soul), but the copy is a bit problematic.

It was fun and ingenious the way the whole background stories were woven together to create a whole new story.  We met the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarescrow in ways we never expected. It’s kind of funny in a wow-who-would-have-thought way to find what the magical red shoes were actually for. And how exactly did Dorothy land in Oz? Classic.

I found that both the witches were actually similar in a big way, being two insecure creatures and putting up fronts. Glinda made up for it by being the lovable and popular girl. Elphaba made up for it for being a somewhat acerbic nerd and pulling off an I-don’t-care-about-what-you-think class act. One qualm: Elphaba gave me the impression of a serious character. I wanted her to be fun, given that the story was supposed to be somewhat a comedy and hers was the title role.

Some parts of the story that were supposed to surprise did not surprise me much, but I think that was because I have often been good at knowing things immediately when I watch something. So the first time I saw the mysterious character dancing with Elphie’s mom, I knew already who he was going to be later in the story. And when a character confronted Elphie and her sister Nessa, the moment the witch mentioned “heart,” I knew exactly what was to happen. These did not dampen anything for me because they served to excite me, making me try to be more observant for more clues.

I did feel that they failed to build up the love story. There were not enough scenes between the future lovers to make his falling in love with her more logical, and until he told her his feelings, there was nothing to suggest that she liked him. Of course, I expected it, but even something that fictional could use a bit more of the realistic approach. I didn’t like how the love angle was “told” kind of haphazardly. As an effect, I didn’t feel the chemistry. It fell flat, to be perfectly blunt about it.

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Jemma Rix as Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West…This is my fave image from the show. Fierce Elphie!

Fifth, the acting. Jemma Rix as Elphaba was wonderful, although I guess it came with the character she was playing. But like I said, Elphie lacked something in the fun character department. The most fun I had with Elphaba was when she was singing, especially her signature song, Defying Gravity.

Let me just emphasize that was never Jemma’s fault. As said, she was a wonderful Elphaba. Oh, but I did love the kind of robotic dancing and the hair “toss-toss”-ing! Those were really funny. You won’t see them in the videos because it seems that each production and its actors still have their own styles, innovations and ad libs.

I did enjoy Suzie Mathers more as Glinda. I can’t even say you’d love to hate Glinda because you could never hate her, she’s so cute! She was the show’s real comic relief, which I didn’t expect, and the fact that she was played by a very credible actress was truly entertaining.

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Suzie Mathers as Glinda The Good Witch of the South

My impression was Suzie’s character was the most physical one in the whole production. She was constantly moving and making gestures, going here and there. The good witch role was a fun character. Suzie was perfectly perky-bubbly-girly. I was, in a way, reminded of Elle Woods in the film Legally Blonde, which now also has its own stage musical adaptation.

Her attack on the role was somehow different from that of Kristin Chenoweth who originated it. Kristin was very effective also, though, rather more on the quirky-silly-girly side. (Watch the very funny Kristin below, giving beauty tips in “Popular.” The last stanza of the song got cut off, though. For a more complete performance and a closer look at the characters — they’re so pretty! — click HERE. )

Jay Laga’aia as The Wizard may seem familiar, and he did seem so to me. That’s because according to the programme, he’d done lots of screen work, most known of which were Star Wars 2 & 3. As for the acting, maybe it’s in how the character was written in the play, but I found myself not feeling anything, either positive or negative. Sorry, just personal opinion.

As for Steve Danielsen playing Fiyero, I felt he lacked a lot. Understandable as he is said to be a relative newcomer to the musical theatre stage. I felt he looked awkward onstage especially when it involved choreography.

In general, the whole ensemble did great justice to the show. Special props to Ms. Maggie Kirkpatrick who played Madame Morrible. 

Over all, it was a very enjoyable night to spend with friends. After all, it was, more than anything else, about friendship and acceptance of others and oneself. The WICKED experience was worth every second, every effort, every cent.

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Liked this? Feel free to hit LIKE!!! Or have you seen a WICKED performance yourself? Share to us your thoughts or posts about it. Let’s be WICKED! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

To Sing or Not to Sing?

NOTE: Technically, it’s still February at the other side of the world. Also, technically, I heard that in the lunar calendar, it’s just the 29th of January. So technically, the Love Month isn’t over yet, and if we follow the lunar calendar, it hasn’t even begun. That said, here’s one of the things to share for this month’s special theme, which is love 🙂

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If I were made to choose between being able to write and being able to sing, what do you think would I have chosen? If you said writing because I am a writer, well, you got it…

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WRITING IDEAS, OR…

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…SINGING MY HEART OUT?

…QUITE WRONG.

Hands down, I would choose to retain my ability to sing, regardless of whether I could carry a tune or not. I may not be able to write, but I’d still  have my imagination with me, which was how I started my stories in the first place. Also, telling stories is not confined to writing alone. Since I’d still have my voice, I could either dictate my pieces to someone who’d write them all down, or do either live or recorded storytelling.

Now singing! No, I wouldn’t be able to do that without the voice, nor could anyone else. Unless I just hummed, which is not really singing, is it? Even if I attempted to do some beatboxing, that would still require sounds that I would not be able to make. Writing is my expression of my thoughts, but singing is the expression of my soul.

I LLLOOOOOVVVEEE SINGING…

I really was the shy, silent type when I was a little kid. To say “extremely shy” would probably be an exaggeration already, but that was  enough to make me ashamed of singing out loud. I loved music, but except for the few times I was in the mood to perform for my only usual audience — my mother — and during Music class in school that I secretly enjoyed, no one could make me sing. Not that anyone actually asked, with the exception of my mother, in which case, I am not even sure if she did ask or I volunteered.

I really did love singing. When I was young, I would  sing just a tad louder than a whisper when I was alone. But whenever somebody came into the room or went near me wherever I was, I would immediately stop singing, act matter-of-factly and pretend I was doing nothing of the sort seconds ago. Imagine, I would even react this way at home and around my family. Why this was so is still a mystery to me. Did I suffer some kind of trauma or ridicule when I was much littler that this affected me the way it did? I cannot remember a thing about it, and if ever it did happen, what was it? or who was it?

The only thing I know is it was also myself who decided that if I wanted to sing, I would. Why would I bother about what they thought? So by fourth grade, I allowed myself to express more freely. I would be singing at the terrace and then someone would pass by and I gathered a lot of courage just to keep from stopping or keeping it down. This certainly had its benefits because I started realizing that I could, kind of, actually carry a tune.

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Samples of local “song hits.” Image from the writeup on the movie based on the most popular Philippine song mag, JINGLE, that was older than myself, I think

Inspired by this realization, I found myself saving my daily allowance and buying “song hits” (referring to song magazines). Soon, I was the most updated in class when it came to new songs and, weirdly, I knew many of the featured old songs as well (some songs even came from much older eras like the 30s). This became my hobby until the sixth grade, collecting song hits that I still actually have in possession.

As I got older, I fell in love with singing more. I was never the best, I know, and had never really joined anything musical. I kept the singing to myself most times. I dabbled into some songwriting, too, but not one of my songs have any actual music till now, mainly because I have never learned to play any string or percussion instrument. That’s why they’re not so good, anyway. Meanwhile, I developed an eclectic taste in music. I came to like almost any music genre, old and new, local and foreign, pop and classic, instrumental and otherwise.

The only ones I never ever liked were hard metal stuff because I could and can never understand why all the hard growling and shouting that do not sound anything like words and are hurtful to the ears are considered singing. I don’t mean just rock. Legitimate rock, I like. But there are “songs” that sound anything but songs. Before you go all-Rambo against what I said, though, I am not judging you. This is personal opinion and taste. In fact, if I tell you now that I love show tunes, you are welcome to hate them. They are not me, the person, such as heavy metal songs aren’t you.

While we’re on the subject of show tunes, I was a junior in high school when I developed an interest in musicals, thanks largely to our Music teacher. Actually, I came to really appreciate music because of what she taught us. I remember she had a certain theme every year that all students experienced in class. I said all because in school, she was our only Music teacher and, thank goodness, there were just four sections per year level. Still, that’s a lot of kids to handle. Anyway, Broadway musicals was the theme that year.

I had long-before seen The Sound of Music (too many times to count!) and Annie on TV. That year, I appreciated show tunes more. (There’s really a side story to this involving Les Miserables and batch unity, one I will save most probably for a separate post.) Our teacher let us watch the West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Sound of Music (I think), South Pacific, and The King and I. I may be forgetting some more, but you get the idea. Whenever it was movie time, I was a very serious, very willing student.

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“Miiiidniiiighhtt….All alone in the moooonliiiiight….” This is Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s CATS The Musical, my most-est favorite of my most favorites. Love the singing, love the dancing!

This love for show tunes grew that when I was working already, I began watching actual shows if the budget allowed it or when I had time to save up. I’ve also been buying my own copies of movie musicals. Never mind that neighbors think me weird watching those and singing loudly along. People do tend to judge what they don’t understand; they probably don’t understand why I could love rapping at the same time either.

I have never been an actual theater person and I don’t get to see every thing that’s played on stage due to budget constraints, but that didn’t stop me from creating a Broadway-themed group in Multiply called HERE’S TO BROADWAY!!! It slowly grew into the musical-lovers’ group with the most members in Multiply-land. Unfortunately, we all know what happened to Multiply.

Now here I am. I love to sing, definitely, even when there are people around. Just don’t approach me and actually ask me to sing or I’ll clam up. I’m okay with people hearing me, but when they let me know they’re listening, I get all…EEK.  Don’t ask me why because I can’t even explain it myself. The only reason I sang for my friends’ weddings were because, well, they’re friends and I didn’t want to disappoint them by turning down their requests…aaaand because I’d rather sing a song and get it over with in three minutes than be a bridesmaid, HA HA HAAA!!!

So, to sing or not to sing? That is not even supposed to be a question. Sing, absolutely.

Lastly, I guess I’ll share these only-a capella samples I did around four years ago. I recorded these while in the bathroom so I could hide and that’s why I was in a hurry. I could have done better but, oh well. The first is originally by Lea Salonga so if you want to hear that, I’m sure it’s in YouTube. It’s quite a videoke favorite here. It’s also my blogs theme 🙂 The second is from the animation film version of The Little Mermaid, which I haven’t really seen yet because I am mad they murdered classic literature. Anyway, because I don’t have copies in my laptop of these, they will open a new tab and direct you to my Facebook video posts instead.

Hate the singer, not the songs, please 😉

The Journey

Part of Your World

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Do you love to sing? Share it to us! We have to take dares sometime 😉

By the way, I have certain “project” so I urge you to please ask me any question in the comment boxes below. THANKS!