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'Wicked': It's just special in Schenectady

The author saw "Wicked" at Proctors last weekend — and says that the production is awesome. “I feel very strongly about 'Wicked' and the way it always seems to turn out so special when it's at Proctors," she said.

Let me preface this by saying "Wicked" is my all- time favorite musical and so my opinions of the production as a whole are going to be very high. And, if I could play any role in any musical (and had the talent to do so) I would play Elphaba.

The show is about so much more than finding out what happened in Oz before that little farm girl dropped in. It's about standing up for what you believe in, fighting for what's right, even if it's not necessarily what's easy. "Wicked" is about looking past an image, not judging books by their covers, and pushing boundaries. It's a story of friendships blossoming in unlikely places, withstanding hardships and differences, and lasting a lifetime.

This is a show you see with your best friends, people you care about. It's a show for everyone, young and old. It's fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously. You have such a good time that it's over too fast, but when you go, you leave feeling hopeful and happy.

It's always a special experience when "Wicked" is at Proctors. There's something about the intimacy of the theater; no seat feels too far away from the stage. I've seen this show at the Apollo Victoria, one of London's largest theaters, and I can honestly say that the experience there is... different. Everything seems a little bigger, but also, a little more disconnected (unless you're sitting in the first few rows of the stalls).

Don't get me wrong, "Wicked" is still great at other theaters. I loved every second of it and I've gone back to the Apollo Victoria multiple times, but it’s different there. It could be a number of other contributing factors: British actors, a largely British audience, changes in staging and words, adapted humoUr (yes, the U is intentional)... or maybe there's something to be said about "Wicked" playing on a stage in the same area where novelist Gregory Maguire grew up. It's just special in Schenectady. (See UAlbany towers inspired "Wicked" video. Click here.)

This touring cast is great. They really are. I just need to say -- I've seen this show on the West End and I've seen it on tour, but I've never seen a better Fiyero than Billy Tighe. He is just wonderful in this part, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love the character Fiyero. In a world of Jean Val Jeans, Phantoms, and Raouls, he's definitely top of my list. It takes a lot for a Fiyero to impress me and Billy's voice just blew me away. Jenna De Waal was also very impressive as Glinda. I'm not a professional but I gather that some of those notes she sings are extremely difficult to hit. Understudy Alyssa Fox was Elphaba at the performance I attended, and she absolutely nailed "Defying Gravity." That's the penultimate song in my book. Nail that and you've won me over.

I took my niece and nephew to this show for the first time at Proctors last Sunday. They're 11 and 9, respectively. They were mesmerized by the production — the story, the music, the dancing, the special effects, how everything comes together. It was wonderful to see it through their eyes, because I could really see the magic.

You have to credit Winnie Holzman for her adaptation and Stephen Schwartz for his music, but we can't forget about the clever re-mastering of a classic tale by Gregory Maguire.

My niece told me she'll never think of the "Wizard of Oz" the same way again. Maybe that's what makes "Wicked" so special. It allows you to question the norm, to think about something you've always believed in, in a different way: A little extra special, perhaps, because the mastermind behind the tale is a local. One of our own.

Readers may recall that Gina Bucciero reported on her experiences at Proctors in a July 2010 blog and then again earlier this year when she returned from England and work in London on the 2012 Olympics Games there. Gina is well-traveled resident of Clifton Park, College of St. Rose graduate, and a proud former intern of Proctors.

Read more about Proctors here.

Read more about "Wicked" in these Gazette stories:

• Kreppel having a "Wicked" good time. Click here.

• Theater review: A "wickedly" entertaining musical. Click here.

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