Out of Oz #TuesdayTunes

You’re most probably familiar with the word “Oz” already. There’s the original Frank L. Baum book, then there’s the 1939 movie with Judy Garland, then the ’70s Broadway musical version, followed by an all-star cast film adaptation of that Broadway musical version in 1978, and then there’s the Gregory Maguire book inspired by the original book but not quite, THEN the Broadway musical inspired by that book inspired by the original…Yeah, I know you’re familiar with it. And you know what I’m featuring today: WICKED songs!

I’m sorry if I’m tiring you with a lot of WICKED stuff in this blog…Actually, I’m not sorry, he he…I love, love, looooove the Broadway musical. Couldn’t you tell with my WICKEDly Ozsome review?

That intro aside, I am happy to announce I found this series on YouTube. They call it the #OutofOz series and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them. It’s “where favorite Wicked alumni and current performers sing re-imagined versions of Wicked songs.” Not sure if there should be more, but so far, I’m only seeing four of them.  Gimme MOOOOOREEEE!!!!!

A new take on “For Good” (a song they originally sang) by Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda) and Idina Menzel (Elphaba)

 

Duet version “Defying Gravity” by Rachel Tucker (Elphaba) and Aaron Tveit (Fiyero)

 

Cute “Popular” song by Aaron Tveit! Hee…

 

Lastly, “I’m Not that Girl” duet version by Rachel Tucker and Kara Lindsay (Glinda)

 

LOVE ‘EM!!!

 

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Hope you loved them as much as I did/do. Check out last week’s #TuesdayTunes, They Say Something Together 🙂

My Five Theme Songs to Live By #atozchallenge2014

I’ve had the draft for this for daaayssss…Anyway,…

Let’s talk about THEME SONGS. Not just any theme songs from movies or shows. I mean those that currently define, describe, and/or I, hopefully, will follow in the years to come, maybe in my lifetime. Basically, these are songs that help bring me back to my senses and make me push through with life and push on.

So, let me share to you now…

 

My Five Theme Songs to Live By

1. Defying Gravity by Idina Menzel

This also serves as my LSS or Last Song Syndrome fave. I play this in the office practically every work day, and play it non-stop a lot of times, too (you can ask my officemates). As I shared in my WICKED post, the song is from the musical. Maybe I am ten years late in really appreciating this song, but I have fallen in love with it now. Maybe because it holds more meaning to me now, too.

The song speaks of breaking free and flying high, escaping from things that hold you back or down from becoming the best and happiest you can be. As Idina’s Elphaba says, it’s time to defy gravity. Below is Idina’s album version of the song:

I’m through accepting limits
‘Cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!

…I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

I guess Idina’s Elsa’s “Let It Go” is in a similar vein (not really the same), but I can relate more with “Defying Gravity” and identify more with Elphie. I know you most probably have heard the song already or seen the movie — I’d be surprised if you haven’t yet — but if you just want to compare, I’m posting the other song, too, and this one’s got sing-along lyrics on it:

2. The Journey by Lea Salonga

Not to be biased or anything because Lea is Filipino and a favorite stage performer, but this song is one of the best songs I have ever heard. It’s not just due to the melody, which may not be the best, but how the message is conveyed. Just watch the video and maybe sing along with the lyrics…

I may be in love with song #1 right now, but this remains as Top 1 in my list of theme songs. It serves as a reminder for me to keep being positive and keep going, to enjoy life and love the journey. Does my blog’s name tell you anything? Forward, always forward, onward, always up, we must go 😉

From what I know, this song was recorded as part of a concept album for the Little Tramp musical that is based on the life of the great Charlie Chaplin. Incidentally, he originally composed the music for the next song for a movie he was making, the words added later on by lyricists.

3. Smile by Nat King Cole

How beautiful! I am not sure about the first time ever that I heard it in my life, but I remember when I actually took notice. That was when I was a kid and my sister and I used to watch old shows on TV (for some reason, we were fond of watching shows that were even way beyond our time) and one of those was the gag show of Jerry Lewis. He would always sing some parts of it at the end of every episode. I immediately understood and fell in love with it.

It is something that anyone who has ever felt sad and lonely can relate to. There is a certain sense of melancholy in it, yet there is the positive message as well that we can hold on to.

4. For Good by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth

Alright, it’s still WICKED and Idina, but you can’t blame me. It just so happens that the show has really good songs in it. And since I am someone who values friendship very much, this duet by Idina and Kristin really spoke to me. The best thing is, it doesn’t necessarily have to be simply about friendship; rather, it can be about relationships in general.

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives
For a reason, bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them and we help them in return…

It well may be that we will never meet again
In this lifetime so let me say before we part
So much of me is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart.

When it was sung live onstage, I noticed how quiet the people from the audience were. Not a few hearts were touched by this song. Every time I listen to it, I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat and want to cry. You should have seen me the first days I was listening to it — I did cry. Then I tortured myself and played it over and over. Crazy, eh?

Those first two lines of the second quoted stanza gets to me every time! I am reminded of friendships lost due to distance or falling-out, reminded to be thankful for the great people in my life, and especially reminded of my parents to whom I was not able to say “so much of me is made of what I learned from you” (oh man, I’m tearing up right now..sorry…).

This song has become my most favorite friendship/relationship song and I think it will be hard for any similar song to dethrone it from my list.

5. You Gotta Be by Des’ree

Last but not the least, we have this perk-up song, at least that’s what I’m calling it. Ever since I learned and memorized it, I have regarded it as a self-advice song. Depressed, worried, anxious? Sing it.  Simply enjoying the moment? Sing it. Apply it anytime, anywhere!

Basically, it’s about keeping a positive outlook, being courageous in the face of hardship, and believing in the power of love.

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day.

In fact, on the few times I get to sing in front of a videoke machine, I almost always sing it. It’s like my default song or something (well, along with song #2).

 

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That’s it, the five theme songs of my life. In other words, guide songs. Do you have yours? What is it or what are they? I invite you to share 🙂

This is my belated “T” post for…

a-to-z-challenge

 

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.

Idina-Menzel

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.

the-wicked-book

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.)  

wicked-australia-collage

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!