Tag Archives: Broadway in Arizona

Tony watching

Jim Parsons (L) and Kristin Chenoweth announcing the 2012 Tony Award nominees. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Watching the Tony Awards ceremony is a longstanding tradition at our house, and our daughter Lizabeth was especially excited about viewing this year’s awards after seeing eight of the shows nominated for one or more 2012 Tony Awards.

I’m fondest of the acceptance speeches, which so often include odes to parents, spouses, partners and kids. Remarks by Audra McDonald topped my list this year. McDonald assured her daughter that although winning the award made it a very special night, the more important day was Feb. 14, 2001 — the day Zoe was born.

Lizabeth once recounted meeting McDonald after attending one of her shows. She was eager to ask her a few questions, but noted that McDonald’s daughter was with her and decided to let the opportunity pass — figuring she’d want to get home at a decent hour on a school night.

When a pair of gentlemen accepted an award for “Newsies,” one offered a simple “Look mom, a Tony!” And Paloma Young, winner for best costume design of a play for her work on “Peter and the Starcatcher,” thanked her father for giving her “way too much adventure for one little girl.”

John Tiffany, winner of a Tony Award for best direction of a musical for his work on “Once,” thanked his family for giving him the gift of music. Another director, Mike Nichols, recalled being at the Beacon Theatre as a child. Nichols won a Tony Award for best direction of a play for his work on “Death of a Salesman.” Seems the site of this year’s ceremony was once his neighborhood movie theater.

Christian Borle, known to many for rocking the Tom Levitt role on the television series “Smash,” earned the Tony Award for best performance of an actor in a featured role in a play for his work on “Peter and the Starcatcher.” His remarks shared thanks for “making my mom so happy.”

James Corden, who won the Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play, thanks his “baby mama” and future wife for teaching him to say “us” instead of “I” and “we” instead of “me.” And Nina Arianda, winner of a Tony Award for best performance of an actress in a leading role in a play for her work in “Venus in Fur,” was ever so cherubic after Christopher Plummer handed her the award. “You sir,” she told him, “were my first crush.”

Most moving were remarks by Steve Kazee of “Once,” winner of a Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. Kazee lost his mother to cancer this past Easter, and shared something he recalls her saying — “Stand up and show them whose little boy you are.”

While most folks in Arizona were watching such moments on TV, others were enjoying the Tony Awards ceremony in New York. ASU Gammage organized a June 7-10 trip to NYC, with the option of staying an extra night to see the Tony Awards at the theater or in VIP seating in Times Square.

While in NYC, the ASU Gammage folks spent three evenings seeing shows and had several meals with Broadway professionals. Saturday’s itinerary included time with cast members from “The Book of Mormon,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and music types from both “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon.”

They also spent time with both the president and vice president of Disney Theatricals Group — and I’m hoping all involved resisted the urge to break into a rousing chorus from “Newsies” or “Beauty and the Beast.” The latter is a “special engagement” for the 2012-13 season at ASU Gammage.

In addition, they toured several parts of NYC — a “renaissance” portion of 42nd Street, the Art Nouveau-style New Amsterdam Theatre (where presidents Obama and Clinton appeared just last week), parts of the NYC subway system, the 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan’s financial district. I’ve experienced them all, and was happy this time around to be tucked under a quilt sitting on the couch next to Lizabeth.

Now that she’s attending college in NYC, annual traditions like watching the Tony Awards on television are bittersweet reminders of the fact that she’ll soon be creating her own traditions far from the nest that nurtured her love for Broadway.

— Lynn

Note: The 2012 Tony Award winning play, “Clybourne Park,” is part of Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012-13 season — click here for details.

Coming up: Go “Jimmy” Go, “Les Mis” meets movie theater, Reimagining “Stage Mom”

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings.

Going rogue?

I've always got my eye out for art -- like this "Right Eye from an Arthropoid Coffin" (1539-30 B.C., Egypt) recently spotted at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

I feel a bit rogue sometimes — writing for an Arizona magazine, but finding such delight in covering NYC arts and culture. So I decided maybe it was time to share with readers in both states, plus others, my rationale for marrying the two. The initial lure, of course, was our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Like many born and raised in Arizona, she’s chosen to further her arts education in NYC — so I visit several times a year in “mom mode.”

But the bridge between Arizona and NYC (plus Chicago and other communities with a heavy arts footprint) is a two-way street. Many who teach and create art in Arizona communities hail from NYC or other parts of the country, and I enjoy giving voice to the places and spaces that’ve nurtured the gifts enjoyed by Arizona art lovers.

Art is all around and deep within us. Traveling without covering regional arts and culture would be like refusing to breath another city’s air. Suffocating. Rather than distracting Arizona readers from the beauty of our own arts bounty, I hope my writing “on the road” inspires a greater appreciation for the multitude of marvels here at home. Photos from a children’s museum in Manhattan or Las Vegas might inspire a family to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix or the Tucson Children’s Museum. So it’s all good.

Sometimes it feels like the art is keeping an eye on you -- like "Curious and Curiouser" by Mary Lucking and David Tinapple in the Arizona Science Center lobby

I’m fortunate to have lots of “Stage Mom” readers in NYC, and hope my blogging on both states’ offerings inspires them to consider the depth and breadth of Arizona arts and culture. We get plenty of bad press, and I’m privileged to cover what’s best about our state. Young poets, skilled playwrights, talented musicians, inspiring dancers, gifted actors. Also arts educators in our schools, museums and various community venues. Tourism takes place in both directions — and I’m an unapologetic missionary for the Arizona arts scene.

I suppose some of my kinship with NYC was born of years attending touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage. I take special delight on reporting from NYC about shows I’ve seen on Valley stages — plus shows that’ll likely head our way during future tours. Only seeing “War Horse” performed at Lincoln Center in NYC enabled me to appreciate how fortunate we are that it’ll gallop into ASU Gammage during their 2012-13 season.

Some people seem to spy art wherever they go -- like this "Untitled" (1961) by Lee Bontecou that's exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum

Some assume that Arizonans are settling for mediocre on-stage and museum fare, but trips to NYC have heightened my appreciation for local offerings. Sometimes I find things that Arizona could use a lot more of — like arts and culture originating in Africa. Other times, I find modest NYC exhibits of Native American or Latino artworks that make clear the excellence of Arizona collections.

Stumbling on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s “Pattern Wizardry” in NYC years after I’d taken my children to enjoy the traveling exhibit at Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth reminded me, like Dorothy in her ruby red slippers, that you needn’t head over the rainbow to find what’s good and right in the world.

Still, we know that plenty of Arizona families travel — making choices when they do about where to invest precious resources like time and money. In an amusement park world, I’m keen on reminding parents to consider arts and cultural destinations too. Youth theater in San Diego. Orchestral concerts in Los Angeles. Public art in Las Vegas. Dance performance in Orlando. It’s all part of upping their appreciation for aesthetics, and the arts and culture industry so critical to a healthy American economy.

Teach your kids to look for art wherever they go -- like this eye detail on the glass house by Therman Statom located just outside the SMoCA young@art gallery in Scottsdale

It’s easy to take Arizona arts and culture for granted, forgetting just how exceptional our own theater companies from Childsplay to Valley Youth Theatre can be. Seeing touring productions from other parts of the country often reminds me that some of the country’s best artists live right here among us. Wowed as I was by a touring Kennedy Center production of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” performed a while back at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, it confirmed my suspicion that Childsplay in Tempe routinely achieves the same high quality of theater performance for students and families.

Seeing works performed during the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City each summer always makes me more committed to attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions here at home. Admiring works of glass art at the Brooklyn Museum last week left me eager to explore more glass art here at home. Similarly, performances enjoyed here in the Valley up my appreciation for works by artists in other places. During my last trip to NYC, I spent an evening watching local arts programming from Thirteen WNET New York Public Media — eager to watch a show about young poets after covering state Poetry Out Loud finals here in the Valley.

Comparing and contrasting are essential to the craft of theater criticism and other elements of arts reporting, so I’d be foolish to check my memories of places like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the door when entering “Stage Mom” mode. The more I experience, the more I have to share with Arizona readers. “Going rogue” has a lovely ring to it, but there’s a circle to what I do — and Arizona will always be my center.

— Lynn

Coming up: Let’s talk “Bully”

Resurrecting a rock opera

The current revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a sort of fourth coming for me. I’ve seen three previous productions of the classic rock opera featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice — starting as a tween who first fell in love with the concept album, then saw a touring production of the show many years later in California.

For a time, I lived and died by the record that felt like my generation’s version of Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Listening to the double album, with its mottled dirt-colored cover and gold logo depicting a pair of angels, felt like an act of supreme rebellion. I remember opening the folded album cover atop my bed, pouring over the matching booklet and kneeling nearly prayer-like on the floor while singing along to songs like “What’s the Buzz?” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”

My daughter Lizabeth, who performs this weekend in the Pace Performing Arts production of “Our Lady of 121st Street” at the Lion Theatre on NYC’s famed 42nd Street, has joined me for two national touring productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” performed at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

She admits to being too young to truly understand “Jesus Christ Superstar” the first time around, but I remember thinking at the time that I wanted her to experience the music that’d meant so much to me during a similar age and stage. Some things — like Springsteen concerts and favorite Broadway musicals — are important to share with our children along the journey.

During my last trip to NYC, we saw a preview of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” directed by Des McAnuff (think “Jersey Boys“) — which has since officially opened at the Neil Simon Theatre. Lizabeth shared after the show that it was the first time she really understood the full measure of the story, based loosely on the last seven days of Jesus’ life.

Though some see blasphemy in the musical’s broad strokes, it’s clearly educating a whole new generation about geopolitical and religious issues of Jesus’ day. For kids not raised with Bible in hand, it’s as close as they may ever come to considering Jesus’ life and times — to witnessing a work within the “passion play” tradition.

Those who’ve suggested the current revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a tad over the top may have preferred tamer takes featuring Ted Neely as Jesus — but we’re not among them. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival production –performed at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego before heading to Broadway — is bolder by far, and much better for it. I loved “The Book of Mormon,” but can’t say that I adore “Jesus Christ Superstar” any less. God has been good to Broadway of late.

I spent much of “Jesus Christ Superstar” fighting the urge to get up and dance. Nobody wants their mom to have the musical theater equivalent of a “come to Jesus” moment in public, so I settled for a swift bit of toe-tapping and a silent sing-along in my head. This resurrection of “Superstar” is fresh, fabulous and fun. No apologies needed.

The “Jesus Christ Superstar” cast includes Paul Nolan (Jesus), Josh Young (Judas), Chilina Kennedy (Mary Magdalene), Tom Hewitt (Pontius Pilate) and Bruce Dow (King Herod). Also Marcus Nance (Caiaphas) and Aaron Walpole (Annas). Nick Cartell (Jonah/Swing) grew up in Arizona, where he performed with Valley Youth Theatre, Phoenix Theatre and more. Liz tells me he’s already rocked the role of Judas in understudy mode.

The creative team includes Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer), Tim Rice (lyricist), Des McAnuff (director), Lisa Shriver (choreographer), Rick Fox (music director), Robert Brill (set design), Paul Tazewell (costume design) and Howell Binkley (lighting design). Also Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Sean Nieuwenhuis (video design), Daniel Levinson (fight director), Simon Fox (stunt coordinator) and John Miller (music coordinator).

It’s about time we had a “Superstar” laced with sensitivity and sass. Think sets featuring tall metal bleachers and a giant ticker counting down Jesus’ final days. Costumes in lush fabrics saturated with rich color or earthy materials muted with feminizing tones. Choreography with tent-revival fervor. And layers of glorious orchestration with a hint of folk fare. All bring modern scale to an ancient tale — making “Jesus Christ Superstar” a resurrection well worth the wait.

— Lynn

Coming up: “Rock of Ages” on Valley stages

Photos courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Bring on the Broadway!

"Anything Goes" comes to ASU Gammage Nov 13-18, 2012

ASU Gammage nearly packed the house for Monday night’s big reveal of their 2012/13 “Broadway Across America” season, which featured film footage of selected shows, live performances by cast members from a couple of the shows and behind-the-scene details from Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and Arizona’s sole Tony Awards voter.

"The Addams Family" comes to ASU Gammage Dec 11-16, 2012

The poor dear has to schlep every year to 60 + Broadway shows, in addition to working the Broadway magic right here in her own backyard — and she’s got stories to tell about each and every experience. Folks who decided to forego this year’s in-person reveal in lieu of merely mousing their way to the details missed some gems. Take note for next time around.

"Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan" comes to ASU Gammage Jan 8-13, 2013

Before Monday night’s event, much of the chatter around town seemed to center on “The Book of Mormon” — which won the 2011 Tony Award for best musical. I’ve seen it, and I loved it. But it’s not coming. Turns out we’re getting something even better — the 2011 Tony Award winner for best play. It’s “War Horse” — which is completely captivating. Even soul-stirring.

"War Horse" comes to ASU Gammage Feb 5-10, 2013

Consider yourself warned, because “War Horse” is the kind of show that transforms single ticket buyers into season subscribers — which means that folks who wait risk not having a shot at it. In theater world current season ticket holders typically get a chance to renew or updrade their seats before others can jump in. New subscribers come next, followed by folks in search of tickets to just a few shows here and there. But no one can predict what might remain after subscriptions are sold, because every house has only a certain number of seats.

"Flashdance" comes to ASU Gammage April 30-May 5, 2013

The fine print for such things is available on the ASU Gammage website, as are dates and details about other shows headed our way — including “Anything Goes,” “The Addams Family,” “Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan,” “Memphis,” “Flashdance” and “Sister Act.” Praise the lord and pass the leg warmers!

"Sister Act" comes to ASU Gammage June 25-30, 2013

Turns out ASU Gammage is also bringing back the Cameron Mackintosh production of “Les Miserables” that sold out during its last ASU Gammage run, as well as “Beauty and the Beast.” Both are special engagements, which means they’re not part of season ticket subscriptions. Another show is headed our way as well. Think Arizona Christmas meets Donny and Marie Osmond.

Posters for two special engagements graced the ASU Gammage lobby Monday night

While patrons enjoyed Monday night’s event, ASU Gammage staffers were busy mounting posters for the newly-announced shows along a wall folks pass as they walk from box office to their seats. Yes, Lizabeth, I did have someone snap my photo with “Donny” — but only because I saw someone else do it first. Kissing it seemed inappropriate somehow with “Sister Act” so closeby.

ASU Gammage presents "Donny & Marie Christmas in Arizona" Nov 27-Dec 2, 2012

Before the evening drew to a close, Jennings-Roggensack shared that ASU Gammage is already gearing up for its 50th anniversary, planning to raise funds that’ll help meet patron requests for things like sound improvements and additional women’s restrooms — plus further the venue’s diverse youth education and “community connection” programs.

Visit http://www.asugammage.com for 2012/13 Broadway season details

I hit the ASU Gammage lobby as the formal program was drawing to a close, watching the monitor that showed a pair of passionate, powerful “Memphis” vocalists singing “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll” onstage as a young mother and her toddler son danced along to the beat nearby.

Remember too that registration for "Camp Broadway" 2012 is now open

Soon people poured out of the theater to enjoy cupcakes compliments of Butter & Me Bakeshop, which has a new storefront in Old Town Scottsdale, plus a bag of ASU Gammage goodies that included the very first edition of the new “gammbill” (their very own take on a “Playbill” program), which features local content and reflects a new partnership with ON Media Publications.

Something a woman said to her friend as they walked to the parking lot signaled the success of the evening, and excitement over the season. “This,” she exclaimed,” was so worth it!”

— Lynn

Note: Click here for ASU Gammage 2012/13 Broadway season details

Coming up: More community connections, Spring dance recitals

Feeling next to normal

Alice Ripley (L), Aaron Tveit (center) and J. Robert Spencer in "Next to Normal" at the Booth Theatre (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Some musicals mirror our lives. Others manage to change them. For our family, “Next to Normal” did both. So news that it’ll open Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012/13 season hits home. Our son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during middle school, and the road from first symptoms to stability was a rocky one.

For many years, the everyday experiences of living with mental illness took a toll on every member of our family, including Christopher’s two younger sisters. For Lizabeth, who’s long been interested in stage and screen, the musical “Next to Normal” felt an anthem of sorts in ways that only she can fully explain.

“Next to Normal” imagines the life of a suburban family fraught with depression and denial. Parents Diana and Tom battle their own demons, and each other, long after the death of son Gabe. Other characters include daughter Natalie, a friend of hers named Henry and Doctor Madden.

It features music by Tom Kitt, and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey — and is being directed for ATC by the company’s artistic director, David Ira Goldstein. The Broadway production won a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and three Tony Awards, including one for best musical score.

"Next to Normal" on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Lizabeth saw the musical during its Broadway run at the Booth Theatre, and we traveled together last January to see the touring production featuring Alice Ripley (who originated the role of Diana on Broadway) at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego. I’m hoping she’ll be on fall break during Arizona Theatre Company’s Oct. 11-28 run in Phoenix.

If not, we’ll continue our tradition of exchanging show stories. I’ve enjoyed hearing her accounts of everything from “Seminar” to “Porgy and Bess.” Some shows, like “Godspell” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” she’s seen more than once. Others, like “The Book of Mormon,” are tough to take in on a college student’s budget.

If Lizabeth gets to “Freud’s Last Session” at New World Stages in NYC, we’ll be able to compare notes on imagined conversations between Sigmund Freud and C.S Lewis — because Arizona Theatre Company is co-producing the Southwest premiere of this work with San Jose Rep as well. A Feb. 14-March 3 Phoenix run means those of you with a warped sense of humor have Valentine’s Day planning in the bag.

The 2012/13 season for Arizona Theatre Company also includes “Lombardi” (a play about Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi), “Emma” (a musical based on Jane Austen’s novel), “The Sunshine Boys” (a Neil Simon play about comedians reuniting to rehash their old schtick) and “Clybourne Park” (a play exploring race and real estate in America, which received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in drama).

Theater has long been a normalizing force amidst circumstances sometimes isolating and unpredictable. Works like “Next to Normal” remind families living with mental illness, or grief following the loss of a child, that they’re not alone. I’m not sure whether seeing “Next to Normal” again will feel more like applying a bandage or ripping one off. Both are necessary for healing.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Arizona Theatre Company’s current season and here to explore their 2012/13 offerings (show are performed at both Tucson and Phoenix venues)

Coming up: Dust in the wind

Update: “Clybourne Park,” which my hubby James saw during his last trip to NYC, has been nominted for several 2012 Tony Awards — including best play. Click here for a full list of this year’s Tony Award nominees. 5/1/12

Beware the green elixer

These students attended a performance of "Wicked" at ASU Gammage last week

Beware the green elixer. Those of you who’ve seen the musical “Wicked” get the reference. So do busloads of Valley students who attended a recent touring performance of “Wicked” at ASU Gammage in Tempe. If you want kids to learn important life lessons, try lecturing less and hitting the theater more.

I got to wondering, after encountering all those wide-eyed and audibly enthusiastic students at “Wicked” the other night, what’s to be learned from this tale of two witches. For starters, I suppose, I should stop calling them “witches” — because “Wicked” clearly demonstrates the dangers of name-calling.

It’s a tale of bullying gone bad, and the way things spin out of control when those who should be upstanders choose to be bystanders instead. Hating or fearing someone because of skin color is wrong. But so is elevating the unworthy to positions of great power, and pseudo-reverence born of fear.

Some of the best “Wicked” one-liners concern history — making a great jumping off points for student discussions. Why would someone imply that history is a collection of lies, or suggest that truth is merely what we’ve all agreed to? If we challenged students to cite examples of such things, what would they come up with?

And what of being popular — or having all our dreams come true? “Wicked” makes clear the inherent risks of each, plus the dangers of silencing diverse voices. In “Wicked” it’s a highly intellectual goat who loses his voice, but the moral holds true for people too.

There’s real whimsy in the use of language throughout “Wicked” as words get adapted, twisted and recreatified — making the musical an homeage of sorts to word play and the sheer joy or crafting language. I’d love to see a big stack of student essays written to reflect a “Wicked” way with words.

Folks who doubt the economic impact of the arts could learn a little something from “Wicked” in the math department. “Wicked” reports that more than 16 million people have seen the show on Broadway or a national tour, and the show “has grossed more than $1.8 billion for its North American companies.” Beware of those hocking the “cut arts funding” elixer.

Consider the number of cast, crew and creative team members it’s taken to perform “Wicked” all these years. Then think about the extraordinary number of teachers standing behind them. The ethereal shades of purple lighting and seamless scenes featuring airborn actors that wowed me at ASU Gammage last week take real prowess in science and engineering.

We don’t consider such things while experiencing “Wicked,” of course. But they’re worth noting in an age when arts education is going the way of Doctor Dillamond. I’m thrilled that Valley schools are sending students to see productions like “Wicked” — and happier still to know that these students are the next generation of audience members, theater professionals and arts supporters.

— Lynn

Chaperones (right) joined the fun as Valley students enjoyed "Wicked" at ASU Gammage last week

Note: ASU Gammage presents Camp Broadway June 4-8 for youth ages 10-17. Learn more about this and other summer camps for children and teens by attending the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair — taking place Feb. 25 & 26. Click here for Camp Fair details.

Coming up: I really stepped in it this time…

My “Wicked” ways

Alan Handelsman has seen the musical Wicked 11 times in seven cities

Guest post
by Alan Handelsman

Yes, “Wicked” is among the best musicals of all time in many categories — music, book, lyrics, plot, characters, staging, sets, dancing. Have I left anything out?

But that is not the main reason I have seen “Wicked” 11 times in seven different cities. (So far. I’ll see it once again when it returns to ASU Gammage.)

I am not bragging when I tell you this. I keep going, and listening to the recording, mainly because I see or learn something new or exciting every time. Maybe it is because I’m slow, but I choose to think there is that much to experience, on many levels.

Those who say “Wicked” is simply about the friendship of two girls are missing a lot of original and sophisticated insights into many aspects of our human experience. Not just friendship, but relationships of all types, as well as politics, psychology, celebrity, history, and the nature of good and evil.

Here are some of the things I’ve seen as I’ve experienced this show again and again. If you see “Wicked” more than once, you will have the time to look for these things. Maybe it will take you fewer than 11 times to enjoy all that “Wicked” has to offer.

A major thing for me is the show’s view of the relationship between good and evil. Notice that the “wicked” witch isn’t all that wicked, and the “good” witch isn’t very good at all, especially at the beginning. Most of the characters are a combination of good and evil. The show’s fantasy world has taught me about real life.

Like many people, I can be very judgmental, and “Wicked” has helped me become more accepting and forgiving. I have learned that – while not always best friends – good and evil seem to be inseparable, we all have some of each, and things aren’t always what they seem.              

I always enjoy seeing Elphaba show Glinda how to be good as their friendship grows strong. Did you notice that when you first saw the show? As I watched “Wicked” for about the fifth time, it suddenly became clear to me that every time Glinda got what she thought she wanted, she felt worse. It took Glinda a whole show to learn to be careful what she asked for, and it took me five times longer.

Each time through, I change my mind as to what is the turning point of the show. Maybe there are several.

I always enjoy how the political statements are presented with subtlety and humor, which makes them very effective. (An example of a more heavy-handed approach would be “Billy Elliot.”)              

As I realized that the last scene is simply a continuation of the first, I was able to experience the beginning of the show in a new way. It was a new perspective that only came from knowing all that was to happen. There are many other examples of statements and behaviors that foreshadow future events, which become fun to identify with the advantage of hindsight.              

There were several times when I got caught looking at the wrong part of the stage, and I missed something interesting, funny or important. If you missed it the first time, be sure to focus on Glinda and Elphaba at the end of “What Is This Feeling.” Also, Elphaba’s appearance at her sister’s home was visually stunning. I didn’t see it the first time, but I’ve seen it many times since.

When asked, “Which was the best production?” I cannot give a simple answer. For example, the singing Elphaba in New York was the best, but the best acting Elphaba was at ASU Gammage. The best acting Wizard was in L.A., the best singing Wizard in Chicago and the best dancing Wizard at ASU Gammage.              

Watching different casts, I find it fascinating to see how much an actor can bring to a role, and even change a character. Sometimes it is the delivery of one line, or even just a word or gesture. The first Elphaba I saw smiled after the song “Just For This Moment” when she said she felt “wicked.” That quick smile gave a dimension to the character that no other Elphaba has duplicated since. Maybe next time.

In most productions, the performances, both singing and acting, have been excellent. I’ve only seen one bad Glinda, one mediocre Elphaba and one Fiero who may have been dancing through life, but had a little trouble dancing through the show.              

You may notice that while all the music sounds like “Wicked,” the style of each song changes to match the characters and the action, and serves the story well. The melodies and harmonies are beautiful and compelling, but for me the best musical aspect is the rhythmic vitality. No matter the speed, the music is always moving forward. The best way I can describe this driving rhythm is that after 30 years of being a pit musician playing woodwinds, “Wicked” is the only show in which I’d want to play the drums.              

The show’s lyrics flawlessly and simultaneously advance the plot and establish character. Stephen Schwartz manages to do this in a way that is both poetic and humorous – not an easy task. His use and intentional misuse of the language is masterful.

One fun thing I sometimes look for is how and when they hook up Elphaba for her “ascent” just before the end of the first act. It is not something you would even want to notice the first time.

After all of this, is there another reason to see again? I’ll let you know after I see it the 12th time.

Alan Handelsman and his wife Anita live with their bunny in Scottsdale. Retired after 30 years as a musician, Handelsman is now a perfectly non-wicked hypnotherapist whose prior review gigs include serving in the first class of ASU Gammage Goers.

Note: Wicked” will be performed Feb. 15-March 11 at ASU Gammage in Tempe. Click here for show and ticket information.

Coming up: More fun with Stephen Schwartz musicals