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January 5th, 2005 - Trickle of Consciousness — LiveJournal
You know, I'm going to miss Homeschool Joe when the current Li'l Mell and Sergio storyline wraps up. Nearly boiled alive, running for his life in the dark, the cute socially impaired boy still manages to spout useless trivia. Gotta love a kid who sticks to his strengths.

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I had read Gregory Maguire's Wicked a couple years ago, and was intrigued (read: baffled) by how you'd make the work into a stage musical. So while doing the massive clicking around to build my Christmas wish list, I hit on the soundtrack to the stage musical, and my sister kindly fulfilled the request.

I'm on my second listen through, and I'm still ambivalent about it. Early in the show, I feel there are a bit too many songs that aren't really songs so much as strung together musical vignettes. There's also a tendency to fugue that doesn't always seem to work. As the show builds, though, there are some pretty solid numbers. I like "Popular," like quite a bit of "Defying Gravity," and enjoy the music and the wordplay in "For Good."

I haven't yet decided if I like it overall, though I will say this soundtrack has underscored for me how much I'm really over the tendency for actors to add emphasis to lyrics by speaking them. I'm not sure if they were acting or directing choices, but the Wicked soundtrack seems chock full of those moments. You can hear the accompaniment behind the words; it's obvious what's being spoken is, indeed, a lyric and not a line in the middle of some background vamping.

Occasionally, this works for me, but by and large it seems to me that if the music's any good at all, all you should need to do to get the best dramatic effect from a lyric is, well, sing the damn thing. When you choose to speak it, you lose the melody, and in most cases you lose the rhythm and momentum of a song, too. And isn't all that one of the biggest points of doing a musical instead of a straight stageplay?

Then, too--at least in Wicked--it seems a lot of these "spoken for effect" moments hit on particularly twisty bits of melody / rhythm. For me, it has the effect of proclaiming that the actors couldn't manage to sing and enunciate at the same time, so they picked the latter.

Personal confession: having Idina Menzel singing Elphaba's part threw me for a while, especially after I remembered where I'd heard her before. Suddenly I was expecting one or more of the vignetty songs to morph into Rent's "Over the Moon" at any second. (Of course, I kept waiting for Joel Grey's Wizard to bust out with "Mr. Cellophane," so this is surely my particular malady and not a fault of the show or the actors).

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