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I Believe in Magic!

Have you ever watched someone have a magical theater experience?


Last night was Wicked good!

Magic was in the air.

Last night I took Hannah, Sai, McKay, and Lillian to see Wicked at Keller Auditorium in Portland, OR. WOW! I can say we all believe in magic now!

I loved watching Lilli watch the show most. She remains absolutely fascinated by all of the automation. She wanted to know how everything worked, and “how they know when to work them,” which led us down a wonderful rabbit hole to what even is a stage manager, anyway, mommy?

For a split second, I wished I was designing and directing professionally.

There’s something magical about watching live performance that I don’t get from going to the movies or watching TV. Because the other audience members, actors, stage manager, house manager(s) and ushers are all present before, during, and after the performance, I really experience it as an immediate social event shared with a theater full of people who are actively engaged in the production.

Live theater relies on a ghost-like interaction between the actors on stage and the viewers "out there," a spiritual bond, if you will. The goal is to forget that you are in a black box and to believe that we have all been transported - wherever the actors say we are and who they say they are.

There is an unspoken promise that no matter what, the show will soldier on. No matter that the bell does not ring on cue, no matter someone drifts by a window they were not meant to drift by for another 15 lines, no matter that someone forgets their lines, the show will soldier on.

This is how the theatre-going experience should feel. The problem for most young people is that it takes a lot of imagination when you're actually sitting in those seats, watching what are obviously people in costume on a set. Then there's the issue of education: depending on what you're watching, theatre is one of those things you often have to prepare in advance for, either knowledge-wise or in terms of honing your listening ear.

Lilli was prepared… LOL. I’m pretty sure she could sing you every song. That wasn’t enough to keep her from being surprised. Now that’s magic!

But I think its stripped-down quality, its way of putting talent at the forefront and forcing you to penetrate its barriers in order to lose yourself, is part of the magic. It demands an emotional investment as large as what the actors are putting in, and the energy that results feels like nothing else.

We were all lost in the moment… all 3000 people sitting in the theater.

"Wicked" is an astonishing triumph, certainly one of the best productions ever to work its magic.

The funny thing about "Wicked" is that it's pretty funny. It is such a clever script!

I know. I know. It's a musical about the friendship of the two most famous witches of Oz before that Kansas farm girl became an unwanted house guest, so to speak.

We were immersed in the cinematic adventures in and around the Emerald City.

The clever tale shaped by composer Stephen Schwartz (and a winner of three Tony Awards) begins after Dorothy's fateful visit. Glinda the Good explains how Elphaba Thropp -- better known as the Wicked Witch of the West -- came to have such a poor reputation and met her liquid end.

The sheer energy of the show starts at the get-go, with Glinda descending among bubbles. (You should have seen Lilli) I don’t know the actress playing Glinda, but she was a flawless carbon copy of Kristin Chenoweth, a blend of Britney and "Clueless" who has a gorgeous voice and terrific comic timing.

As the eternally popular one at school, she becomes roomies with Elphaba, who is green skinned, studious and gifted with magical abilities, and who repulses all who see her, even Munchkins. We saw the “stand-by” actress in the company. She pulled off this role with an exquisite voice and compelling presence. We will not soon forget her ascension in "Defying Gravity" at the end of the first act, rising on the stage and stunningly lit. What a voice!

That lighting effects were merely one example of the brilliant design of the production that is meticulously arranged to not only wow the audience, but also lure everyone further into the story.

The sets are storybook Victorian expressions of a culture not so foreign to us. The lighting transports us, whether to places of darkness or to the Emerald City. Costumes look like they came from a Bizarro Christmas Carol, vivid and melding into the choreography. The busyness on stage is enhanced by a fascination with wheeled vehicles that frequently appear.

Oh my! Perfection.

Plays are meant to be seen by your eyes, for you to see and feel what the play says to you. There is a risk that you must take, and I think some are afraid to take it, sadly. The risk is not knowing just how you may like it.

Theater does not come with a guarantee - nor should it. It is the alchemy of playwright, actor, director and YOU that make it sparkle.

Do yourself a real favor: go see live theater. You will be treated not only some of the finest plays and actors, but also take a thrilling journey.

I think if we don’t support the arts in our own community, we risk losing that local creative energy. I feel so spoiled by the high quality of art we have in Western Oregon.

At this time in my life I spend most of my energy in educational theater. I design sets and lights for my local high school and assist in teaching kid to create magic. I’m really, really happy where I am. I’m using my School of Drama education in a different way than I thought I would many years ago, but I certainly am using it. And last night, I got to be just an audience member.

Watching my little girl love the theater.

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