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Thursday, June 12, 2003

Everybody has a back story. No matter what you think you know about someone, personally or publicly, there's more there than you could possibly know. Once in a while, when some of the blanks are filled in, a different side of that person is revealed, and maybe your perspective changes. Maybe someone you'd judged one way turns out to be an entirely different kind of person.

That's a good thing to keep in mind when reading the news or watching political figures make grand speeches. The news industry, as it's presently constituted, has taken on the job of reducing everyone to digestible sound bites. If it takes more than thirty seconds to explain something about a person, you don't get to know that part of them.

It's probably a good thing to keep in mind when reading online journals as well. It's not that we portray ourselves as different than we see ourselves (although undoubtedly some of us do). It's not even that we don't have a fairly clear idea of who we are and how we got that way (although many people don't). It's just that there's only so much we can say without (a) driving away readers from boredom, or (2) driving away readers in horror.

These reflections are brought to you courtesy of a new musical that Mom and I saw at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco today. It tells the "true" story of one of those legendary figures we're taught to hate and fear. It tells how the Wicked Witch of the West got that way. It's the back story for "The Wizard of Oz," and it's a very funny and moving new show that exceeded all my expectations. It's called "Wicked."

This was probably the first time I've seen a musical without knowing anything about it. I didn't know the songs, and there are some memorable ones. I didn't know where the story was going most of the time, but it took me in places that were both familiar and surprising — at the same time.

Not to give too much away, but it turns out it's all Glinda's fault. Mistakes were made. The house that fell on the witch's sister in that other version of the story? Seems that was part of a "regime change." And I swear I saw monkeys fly.

The two women who star in this pre-Broadway production are magnificent. Kristin Chenoweth is Glinda, the too-good-to-be-true witch who's just a little too blond and bouncy for her own good. Idina Menzel is Elphaba, who grows up to become the Wicked Witch. You know this right away, because she does the whole play in green makeup. It can't be easy to win over an audience when you're green, but she pulls it off. And the voices! Incredible.

I don't usually write "reviews" as such, but I'd really like to see this show make it to Broadway. It's that good, from the play itself to the scenic design to the performances. And then I'd be able to say I saw it in its infancy, before anyone knew what to expect.

When you see "Oklahoma" or "Annie," you know going in what you're going to want to see. You have a kind of mental checklist, because these shows are so familiar that they're part of everyday language. I can only imagine what the early audiences for those shows thought when they saw them, but now I have a little better idea.

12 June 03

Looking along Geary toward the Curran.

We took the bus down to the City, and it was riotous fun all the way. It was good, clean fun, of course, but still more or less semi-riotous. Most of the people on the bus were older than I am, and that's saying something. But they know how to have a good time, and they were as enthusiastic about the show as I was. Plus, there was lunch. Can't beat a deal like that.

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Who is Spike Lee kidding? Did anybody really associate the new Spike cable network with him until he sued to stop them from using the name? I hate to take the side of an exploitative, disgusting programming outlet against a respected filmmaker, but give me a break. It just has to be that they're in on the joke, because it's too ridiculous to be real.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Small Town
"That's the trouble with nostalgia. It's a warm, fuzzy feeling, until you realize what you've lost."

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