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Broadway June 4, 2010

Posted by Fritz in Travel, Yachts and other things that float.
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One of the perks of my escorting school kids to various cities is getting to see Broadway or Broadway quality shows if they are on the school’s itinerary. That was the case this past month. While in New York with a group from Ohio, I got to see Wicked. Now, as most of those who know me would attest, I am not a huge theater fan. I’ve seen my fair share but I sure don’t consider it that important in my life to see the latest rage on stage.

I hadn’t heard much about the play even though it has been running for over seven years. Wicked premiered at the Curran Theater in San Francisco in May 2003 and premiered on Broadway at the Gershwin Theater in October of that year. That’s where I saw it last month. The production is a financial smash and continues to pack them in. The night we were there it was a mid-week sellout.

Wicked tells the story of Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, and her relationship with Galinda, later Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Their friendship struggles through their opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, their reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government, and, ultimately, Elphaba’s public fall from grace. The plot is set before and during Dorothy’s arrival from Kansas and includes several references to well-known scenes and dialogue in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz as a backstory. The play has great songs, hysterical moments and is suitable for families.

A little backstory on our tour—We actually had two different schools in New York at the same time. One had Wicked tickets and my group was going to see West Side Story. Dave Matthews, Prime Tours president, was escorting the other group and asked me if I had a preference in plays. I had seen West Side Story both on stage and the movie so I picked Wicked.

The shows were just four blocks from each other and they both started at 8pm. I had enough time to get my group to their theater, tell them where I would meet them after the show and then hoof it to the Gershwin to make Wicked. I was feeling a bit guilty about bailing on my group to see a different play but that was about to change.

Dave had purchased tickets for both schools many months in advance so the kids actually got decent seats in the middle orchestra section. I was sure we’d be sitting amongst them so I was happy to not be buried in the balcony behind some behemoth with bad breath. I followed the sellout throng as we made our way to the inner doors of the theater. Through them, I was directed by the usher to continue down the right side. Upon arriving at the second phalanx of ushers I was waved forward still. I continued to the last usher, a pimply faced 20 something who, after glancing at my ticket, walked me forward, past row after row, until we stood at the end aisle of row one. Holy crap! I had front row seats.

I was having trouble processing that the empty seat down that first row was mine. I looked back at the usher, fully expecting to hear him say “just kidding pal, you’re up there,” while pointing to the lofty balcony that seemed half a mile away from where I stood. But he had already disappeared back to his station when I heard “Down in front.” I recognized Dave’s voice and looked over to see him grinning broadly sitting in row two directly behind my empty seat. I snapped out of my stunned state and grinned back an appreciative smile. As I made my way to my seat I used the stage to steady myself. Too cool.

Glinda

The play was great, made more so because the actors were so close. Even though everyone was miked, I could actually hear their voices from the stage. I got to see the wig tape and the make up on the costumes and as the show progressed the sweat on their brows. The production was first class and the leads were outstanding.

Elphaba

This night’s performance starred Mandy Gonzalez as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Katie Rose Clarke as Glinda (the Good Witch of the North). Both actors were superb. However, there was one incident that I have to relay.

As soon as the lights went down and the play started, a horrible odor began to waft around us. After the third blast of putrid air made it to my nose I turned around to Dave who gave me a WTF look. It was the unmistakable stench of feet. Someone had obviously taken their shoes off and was gassing everyone around them. I could tell the gal seated to my left was also mortified and disgusted. I was hoping she didn’t think it was me! This lasted through the first act. At the break, Dave immediately informed me and our immediate seat-mates that the guy four seats down from him had just put his sneakers back on during the applause of the first act.

Now, I can usually handle a lot but I got to tell you, this guy’s feet were the rankest I have ever smelled. From four seats away and a row infront he had tears coming to my eyes whenever I got a whiff. What was so amazing was he was with a date sitting at ground zero who didn’t tell him to put his shoes back on. She was either devoid of the sense of smell or an olfactory masochist who craved the smell of rotting flesh. As a matter of fact, nobody said anything to him until Dave finally broke the politically correct silence when he saw him take off his sneakers again under the cover of the beginning of the second act. Dave leaned forward and looked down the aisle and in a hushed but firm tone said what needed to be said, ‘Excuse me sir, but you need to put your shoes back on, your foot odor is disrupting the play.” I turned around briefly to make sure the guy wasn’t going to attack Dave and was pleased to see several of the folks around him smiling appreciatively. The gal next to Dave muttered an exasperated ‘thank you’ and I hoisted a small ‘thumbs-up’ from the first row.

I guess it just goes to show that low class is not reserved for the cheap seats.

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