Our First Time Seeing Wicked the Musical (at the Detroit Opera House)

During the spring semester of my senior year in high school, my English teacher assigned our class the task of creating a small poetry anthology. The guidelines included selections from respected poets and original writings from our own seasoned twelfth-grade minds, as well as the option of choosing a song with lyrics we admired. While sharing our finished books during class one day, I remember a classmate playing one song in particular: "For Good" from the musical, Wicked. It was literally music to my ears.

Throughout the rest of the semester, Wicked became a big deal at school, particularly among the more musical chorus and band students (I was in the middle of my clarinet-playing days). In fact, I remember a lovely rendition of "For Good" being performed during our senior Baccalaureate/Award ceremony. Around that time, I fell in love with Wicked from a distance--buying the book, singing along with the soundtrack, and dreaming of the day when I'd sit in a magnificent theater, watching these misunderstood characters belt out stories of friendship, love, and major turning points in life.

Fast-forward: six years later. I've graduated college, gotten married, moved to Michigan. Imagine my surprise as I watched TV over the summer and saw local commercials for Broadway in Detroit, a place within driving distance that hosts Broadway-quality shows all year long. And guess which musical was featured to return to town in December?

I squealed like a little girl for about two months every time I saw the commercial, and finally went to the Ticketmaster with Brad sometime in November to reserve our seats. The countdown was on.

Thanksgiving came and went, December snowed its way in, and before I knew it, opening night was here. I made sure I had everything ready before Brad got home so we could get to Detroit in plenty of time--dinner, dress, shoes, you name it.

(Long story short, I threw some chicken in the oven and went on a last-minute errand in my dress and huge shoes to get some Fast Flats. While I was at the drugstore, I saved a baby from almost falling off the cashier's counter. Inquire below if you are at all curious.)

As you can see from the picture on the right, it's probably a good thing I got the flats.

When I got back from shoe shopping and baby-saving, Brad was home. We scarfed down dinner, then took pictures of ourselves by the Christmas tree since we (I) had spent so much time getting pretty. I wasn't planning on taking our camera to the show, so I knew any pictures we took at the opera house would only look as good as our cell phones allowed.


Finally, we were off to see the Wizard Detroit! FYI: If someone ever tells you there's no need to pre-pay for parking downtown before a show like this, they're lying. We ended up spending twice as much when we got there. Then again, we didn't look much further than the garage, since we didn't exactly feel like wandering around in an alley somewhere to save a few dollars.

The opera house at night
The opera house was breathtaking. Ornate chandeliers, mirrors, and classic patterns dripped from every surface, and person after person walked by in their finest evening attire. It reminded me of my first trip to Broadway in 2009 to see Shrek the Musical, and at the same time made me feel like a Victorian socialite on her way to "just another evening" at the Opera. In all seriousness, though--walking through those doors made me feel really special.

Ceiling inside the front lobby
Outside the auditorium on the box seating level (that's a chandelier, not fire).

That's me! Me at Wicked!

My program--it doesn't say "Playbill" at the top, but I love it all the same. :)

After we milled around for a bit, Brad and I showed our tickets to an usher, who led us to a very important door that was labeled with our box number (we were lucky enough to have box seats in the center of the theater, which according to a lot of people we've talked to, are basically the best seats in the house). As the courteous, old man opened the door for us to walk in, I felt as though I was being escorted into a VIP area. 

We waited a little while, then shortly after 8:00, the lights went down, the show was introduced, and I bounced giddily in my seat as the first few chords of  "No One Mourns the Wicked" filled the auditorium. Showtime! I had finally made it! I sat back for the next hour-and-a-half or so and took everything in--the music, the lights, the costumes--it was all spectacular.

Nothing could surpass, however, my favorite moment of the musical: the last number of Act I. It's in this scene that the main character, Elphaba, comes to terms with her new "wicked" reputation, singing about her transformation in "Defying Gravity." Just before the curtain closes, Elphaba flies above her enemies in a swirl of smoke and mystical lighting. It was everything I could do to keep from crying like a little baby. It really was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

During intermission, we wandered around some more, and Brad bought me a souvenir--the most expensive t-shirt I've ever owned. I felt guilty about it for at least an hour before finally promising Brad that I would hand wash it in cold water and never, ever put it in the dryer. He is way too good to me sometimes.

I enjoyed Act II more than I expected, particularly because I realized that I didn't know what was going to happen. You can learn a lot from a play by listening to the music, but there are some details you'll never fully understand until you see the production in person. Now, I wouldn't dream of ruining the story for you, but let me just say this: You'll be hard-pressed to find another story that puts such an effective sympathetic spin on a classically-hated character. Oh, and if you decide to see the show for yourself, pay careful attention to the dialogue and lyrics. The whole darn thing is a foreshadowing extravaganza.

So, overall, the evening was definitely a success. Even Brad liked the show, which has given me license to play the soundtrack continuously over the past week. Hey, I don't like to let any opportunity slip by. ;-)

After the play, we drove around Detroit for a little while to see some of the buildings and landmarks that are characteristic of the area. The streets seemed unusually empty, save for the fact that clouds of fog billowed out of every drain. It was kind of neat, actually--a somewhat peaceful evening in what so many people perceive to be a wretched city. There were also a lot of Christmas lights, along with a huge, decorated tree and an outdoor skating area that reminded me of a tiny Rockefeller Center.


So, second trip to Detroit? Not too shabby. This time around, I saw that artistic spirit surrounding me that so many people talk about, and I could finally see a city that was once incredible, had its hard times, and is on its way to bouncing back. Give it time . . . there's so much bundled up in those city blocks that's just waiting to burst to life.