Broadway is truly amazing

Published 11:59 pm Friday, April 24, 2009

This past October, I performed in the musical Two by Two, which was put on by Andalusia Community Theater (ACT I) — a local group of amateurs who like getting up on stage and making people laugh, cry and smile — or at least trying to.

A friend of mine, who was in the performance, told me that he had heard people tell him, “Your show is as good as one you’d see on Broadway.”

After seeing Wicked in Birmingham last weekend, I can say with absolute sincerity that, no, an ACT I musical is not quite as good as you’d see on Broadway.

I believe that every person on this earth should get the opportunity to see a Broadway musical (as in, with real Broadway actors or at least off-Broadway actors) at some point in his or her life. There is simply no other form of entertainment that can approach it.

A musical, or at least a good one, should use three different tools to tell its story — music, lyrics and the story itself. Wicked takes advantage of each of these, in spades.

First, there is the music. Any Broadway musical worth its salt will include a live orchestra, and it is almost worth the price of admission to hear those instruments play. Wicked is a modern spectacle that features everything from electric guitars to kettledrums. The songs in the musical run the gamut from loud and boisterous (featuring loud percussion and electronic sound) to quiet and provocative (featuring gentle strings and soft pianos).

Next, there are the lyrics. Stephen Schwartz, who wrote both the music and lyrics for Wicked, is a master wordsmith and it shows when you listen to the words on stage. For example, the song “The Wizard and I,” features Elphaba — the green-faced melancholy girl who will eventually become the Wicked Witch of the West — as she considers her future. She sings, “And since folks here to an absurd degree/ seem fixated on your verdigris/ Would it be all right by you/ If I de-greenify you?”

In that one lyric alone, you get a vocabulary lesson (“verdigris” is the name for a green rust-like coating that covers bronze — like the color of the Statue of Liberty), several creative rhymes and a bit of a nonsense word. Since my job involves using words, I can’t help but be mesmerized by the creativity of a master lyricist like Schwartz.

And finally, there is the actual story itself. But the performance is only believable and enjoyable if the actors have the skill to pull it off. Talented professional Broadway actors not only have great singing voices, but also a tremendous sense of comic timing and stage presence. They make you laugh, make you cry, and above all, keep you entertained.

I can’t wait to see my next show.