When the local Arcata Community Players announced that their Spring show would be the award-winning Broadway smash hit “Wicked,” and that it would be broadcast via Zoom, I had high hopes. However, those hopes were quickly dashed as the Ensemble, dressed head-to-toe in emerald, disappeared into the green screen background. They became a chorus of floating heads and hands–there was no way of knowing what their torsos were doing.
It has been more than a year since the company’s last performance, giving them plenty of time to adapt to digital theater before this Spring’s production. Apparently, this was not the case. I felt robbed of the opportunity to see the fantastic choreography the company has displayed in past live productions, such as “CATS” in Winter 2019.
Playing Elphaba was the talented Cynthia Rain–according to the program at least. It was impossible to see her green face so it’s possible it was the understudy. As most remember, Rain was an incredible standout as Bombalurina in “CATS”, so it’s no surprise she would take up the helm of this Spring’s virtual performance. In “CATS”, Rain’s performance oozed sensuality and displayed her talent as both a singer and a dancer, particularly in the Jellical Ball.
Thus, it felt a crime when Rain disappeared into the superimposed castle walls during Defying Gravity. It did appear that Elphaba’s hat was floating–‘defying gravity’ literally, but the artistic choice wasn’t worth the sacrifice of Rain’s rich facial performance and expressive dance moves we were lucky enough to witness in person before the global pandemic.
While Elphaba disappeared into the sets, Glinda, played by Lacey Roland, was crystal clear. Though Roland is a talented performer (albeit, a little raw and untested), this totally undermined the show’s emotional thesis. From this production I can tell that Director Steve Ritten has a disdain for the source material–his bias against Elphaba was evident.
Furthermore, it seems like Ritten and Lance Dans, Set Designer, could have explained green screens to Madeline Toures, Costume Designer, in the last few months, or even invested in a blue screen. I don’t think she shoulders all the blame for this train wreck of a show. Frankly, I would have rather gone to a well-staged super spreader event instead.
After the mishandling of this show, I hope the company can recover in their next Zoom production, “Shrek: The Musical,” but I have my doubts.