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Mandlebaum's review of WICKED album is up

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Auggie27
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Mandlebaum's review of WICKED album is up#0
Posted: 12/12/03 at 7:42pm
It's posted.

I am a fan of Mandlebaum's, beause he's usually so clear and objective, and a brilliant archivist about the musical theater; he's truly The Source. But his WICKED cast album review -- finally deciding it's a "guilty pleasure" -- tries to have it both ways. He has no respect for what Schwartz has done to musicalize the novel, but admits the ablum is highly playable. "Better than it has a right to be..." is a back door compliment of a low order. Like many, he wanted WICKED to be INTO THE WOODS-esque, more ambitious in some way. So now he enjoys it a lot, cheesy pop failure though it is.

I'm personally weary of this kind of duplicity. To me, "guilty pleasure" is part of the overused lexicon of the day. Sort of "artistic PC." It allows people to half-assed own liking material -- at times being besotted with it -- to which they feel intellectually superior. Martha Graham, incognito at FLASHDANCE, crying in her popcorn. Renee Fleming listening to Celine Dion and pretending it's Callas. Come on people, if something gets to you, be man or woman enough to just say so.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
Updated On: 12/12/03 at 07:42 PM
actorboy
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Very well put, Auggie.
MusicMan
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I wept at ELF (the main title theme slayed me) and SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (recognition of mortality will do that to a person).
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Al Dente
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You're so right, Auggie. I was very annoyed by his CD review... a bit of back-peddling, if you ask me!
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MasterLcZ
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I do think he's back-peddeling a bit. I agree with his original take - that the score is just servicable, lacking real distinction and magic. But I think it has less to do with the fact that now he thinks the score 'isn't all THAT bad' than the fact that he was taken aback at how much WICKED has taken off to be a real critics-be-damned, word-of-mouth hit despite the near-universal criticism of the score.

He did the same thing with MILLIE.
"Christ, Bette Davis?!?!"
Updated On: 12/13/03 at 05:09 PM
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I wonder if it's that "better on CD" syndrome. A score will sound extremely different recorded in a studio than live and in context of the show. Possibly there could have been less backpedaling if he had heard the CD first and upon numerous playings. I hated The Magic Show and Two Gentlemen of Verona upon first listen, but grew to love them. I loved Ragtime on CD, but was woefully disappointed when I saw it. Kiss of the Spider Woman sounds inifinitely superior to me on the CD than on stage where lyrics were often unintelligable and the overblown staging masked the score.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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Auggie27
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Al, Master, and Mister, yes. Mister, you're very right; a whole thread was done here about a score's effectiveness in the theater vs. success on CD. WICKED is destined for that syndrome. The performances on the recording have already brought up new concerns, dividing people. It's OT here, so I've started a separate thread, but a lot of WICKED fans seem to want the score to sound MORE pop-ish than perhaps it really is, particularly Idina.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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MasterLcZ
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The problem for many of us would-be WICKED fans is that we so wanted to love the show, score and all. I don't think any show this season had as much goodwill riding on it before it opened. People were desperate for a musical that for once isn't based on a popular film or has a cut-and-paste score. And it's frustrating that a show with as much going for it as WICKED (Cheno, Menzel, Grey, the juicy plot) the songs kinda lay there.
But I must say, I am curious to hear if they sound any better on the CD.
Based on a few TV performances, I also wonder if WICKED won't truly work best as a musical film.
"Christ, Bette Davis?!?!"
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Auggie27
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You're right again, Master. For once, the response isn't backlash against something shoved down our throats by a handful of critics; there was extraordinary good will and anticipation in the community at large before this show arrived. The team assembled, actors, writers, director, all are perceived to be bonafide Broadway folks, i.e. creators who "deserve" to be here, because they are "real" theater people. Perhaps that made the sense of expectation that much greater, no? Hard to live up to? Just a thought.

I was such a fan of the (far darker and more ambitious) Maguire novel, I could've gone either way--been wildly disappointed, or predisposed to adore it. My reactions I fell in the middle. I do think overall Schwartz has taken an unfair beating -- his contriution is crucial and adds more than it detracts -- and the Mandlebaum's "guilty pleasure" appraisal crystlizes the syndrome. I look forward to hearing from Master and others after they buy their copies.
"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling