Over the past two nights, I've been lucky enough to see two West End musicals. The two best musicals I've ever seen, in fact.
#1 was Wicked, the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became Wicked. It's a truly heartbreaking story, made all the more so by Idina Menzel's amazing performance as Elpheba, which she made her own when the show first started on Broadway. The name Elpheba, by the way, was coined by Gregory Maguire (who wrote the book on which the musical is based) in honour of The Wizard of Oz's first author - L Frank Baum. L F B. Elpheba.
The audience was wild. When Idina first walked on stage, the whole production had to stop for a minute while the crowd whistled and stamped and cheered. I can't imagine an Australian audience responding so vocally to a musical.
#2 musical was Avenue Q. For those of you who aren't familiar with it... well, it kind of defies explanation. It's a musical. About a bunch of misfits living all the way out in Avenue Q in New York. They fall in love, get their hearts broken, struggle with sexuality, wonder about what their purpose is, get drunk and have sex. They sing songs with names like "What Do You Do With A BA In English?" and "The Internet is for Porn" and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". The superintendant of the building is child-star Gary Coleman. Oh, and half the gang are muppets.
Again, one of the best things about seeing the show was feeling the buzz from the audience. You could feel the uncertainty at the beginning, it was clear that pretty much nobody was familar with the show. When the lead guy walked on stage for the first time with a muppet on his arm, the audience squirmed and looked doubtful. Then he started singing. The audience started laughing. They kept laughing for much of the first act. They cheered wildly when one of the characters came out of the closet. They threw coins into hats in the Money Song. They loved it. I loved it.
(This post is dedicated to Jellyfish, who introduced me to both musicals, and is probably now as green as Elpheba with envy.)