Go see “Wicked.” Do it. I, for one, never understood the crazy musical theater kids drunk at Karaoke bars in New York singing Defying Gravity as if they were actually on the stage, but now I do.
In a rush I battled through the downtown traffic and finally found a parking spot. I didn’t mind the hubbub, though, as I began to experience that city-feel again: Sidestepping strangers on the street, urban-striding to get me where I needed to be, and looking fashionable as I rushed my way to The Majestic Theatre to be transported into the world of “Wicked.” A different take on the tale of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “Wicked” looks at the intertwined lives of Elphaba, aka the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good.
Delve into this vivacious land where questions of morality, rivalries, and love triangles riddle the stage. In “Wicked,” munchkins’ rights are taken away and animals are tortured and forbidden to talk. The Wizard of Oz is less of a leader and more a charlatan as he deems lying to the people of Oz a means to make them happy. Elphaba is tempted to join this mysterious yet dangerous world of glee but instead becomes an outcast and bears the weight of being deigned the wicked witch.
Watch as Jennifer DiNoia portrays a perfect Elphaba and defies gravity with super cool effects, and listen to her deliver songs with her powerhouse rocker-girl voice.
Hayley Podschun plays the popular blonde know-it-all Glinda and she definitely lives up to the role that Kristin Chenoweth made famous. Podschun tickled the audience with jokes and puns and popular-girl antics. Kathy Fitzgerald also stole the stage as Madame Morrible with operatic dramatics and a bellowing voice. These performances will blow you away.
I was so entertained by the show itself that I had forgotten to look up. My eyes were met with one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever seen. New York may have chic and contemporary theaters, but San Antonio has The Majestic. Designed by the legendary John Eberson in a Spanish Mediterranean style, the proscenium depicts a village courtyard filled with statuary and baroque architecture. Greek and Roman influences are evident. A white peacock sat atop one of the balconies. Palm trees, grape vines, and other foliage caught my eye as I gazed skyward into the theater’s vaulted ceiling and electric starry night. Never had I seen such a regal theater.
I got to speak with the Mike Rilley, the general manager of the Majestic, to get an inside scoop on the theater and its programming. The Majestic was established in 1929 and has played a central role in the downtown as both cultural and historic landmark.
“It’s a huge part of so many stories of people who grew up and live in San Antonio,” Rilley said. “I’m talking about someone who’s eight or 85.”
The Majestic has been the home of the San Antonio Symphony for decades and Rilley said the theater’s management is pleased to see them transition to the Tobin in September. Though they will move, the Symphony will continue to have a presence at the Majestic, with plans for future performances in the works. The newly opened dates represent an opportunity for other San Antonio cultural organizations to fill the space. Rilley expects the Majestic’s programming palette to appeal to an even more diverse audience.
The Majestic will continue to be San Antonio’s home for Broadway, as it has been since the ’80s. New and familiar shows balancing the best of Broadway, including Once, Evita, The Lion King, and Dirty Dancing will grace the stage later this year. Rilley told me that concerts are easier to book, but he assured me, “We work hard to bring these (Broadway) shows here.”
Las Casas Foundation, the non-profit that operates the Majestic, stages various educational programs open to the community. Las Casas also awards scholarships to local college bound students for musical theater or theatrical acting, and for kids attending Camp Broadway right here in San Antonio. The foundation launched a pilot program last year called the Behind the Scenes Program where teens from the youth theater programs at Say Si and the San Pedro Playhouse Conservatory were invited to take master classes from the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher as well explore the theaters and see the shows. This year the teens will actually get to have a master talk back with the cast of “Wicked.”
Everyone seems to be in a wicked frenzy and The Rivard Report, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS have come together to bring us a Wicked WEBB party at The Bonham Exchange. This will be a one-night cabaret event where the company members of “Wicked” come together with local Drag Queens like Ms. Alayna Marquez – the reigning Ms. Gay Texas America.
Expect silent auction items, framed posters signed by the cast, and fun prizes like getting ‘greenified’ just like Elphaba, or win a chance to go backstage and ride in Glinda’s bubble. Admissiosn is $20 and open to everyone 18 and older.
Whatever way you look at it, San Antonio is in for a wicked season with the show running till March 30, the Wicked WEBB cabaret event on March 20, and the official WEBB party right after that on April 11.
*Featured/top image: Satisfied audience members mingle in front of the Majestic Theatre after the Wicked performance. Photo by Kevin Tobar Pesantez.