June 15, 2011

One Short Day in the Cream City

I have never been to Wisconsin, so as part of my recent Midwest vacation, Pinky played tour guide in Milwaukee. It so happened that the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was performing Wicked Divas that weekend at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, conducted by Steven Reineke. So off we went to see Julia Murney as Elphaba and Jennifer Laura Thompson as G(a)linda. I was excited to see JLT because she was the first Glinda that I saw with Idina Menzel, and she was fantastic.
When we went to pick up our tickets that afternoon, it was obvious that other ticket buyers had no idea what the show was going to be about. But they were there to support and enjoy their MSO. The concert began with the Gypsy overture, followed by selections from Carmen. The Wicked stars were introduced, exchanging easy banter after performing "All That Jazz" from Chicago. Polite applause. I could feel the audience warm up to the Broadway stars after Ms. Thompson sang "I could have Danced all Night" and Ms. Murney performed a tear-inducing "Back to Before". Then it was JLT's turn again with one of my favorite songs from The Phantom of the Opera, "Think of Me". Julia's hilarious "Ring Them Bells" brought the house down. Thunderous applause and cheers as she exited the stage. (I should have told Ms. Murney that this song should be her bonus track in her next CD.) After those two numbers, the ladies owned the audience. Gloria Estefan's "Conga" closed the first act. One has never truly heard "Conga" until one has heard it played by an 88 piece orchestra.
So after the intermission, the symphonic sounds of Diana Ross started things off, with Maestro Reineke dishing a little bit about the famous diva. The Oz-ilicious stars then squared off ala Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer with the fun No More Tears (Enough is Enough), followed by a Celine-Dion-eat-your-heart-out rendition of "My Heart will Go On" from Ms. Thompson. Ms. Murney gave Sara Ramirez a run for her money with her version of "Divas's Lament" from Spamalot. Finally we went to L.Frank Baum's Oz, with "Over the Rainbow" (which also always makes me cry), then headed over to Gregory Maguire's Oz with "Popular". My waterworks continued with Ms. Murney's "Defying Gravity" and finally with "For Good". Ms. Thompson herself became emotional during this last song, probably a testament to the friendship between the two performers. They had terrific chemistry onstage, and mostly likely, off stage. For an encore, they sang "I will never Leave You" from Sideshow. I also love that song. Unfortunately, they made a crack about the irony of the song being sung by conjoined twins. So as they were singing it, I was into full blown giggle mode. It was still a tremendous performance. The dynamic duo had the audience eating out of their hands.
After the show, the gracious divas signed autographs and posed for pictures. Julia Murney's CD "I'm Not Waiting" was also on sale at the lobby, as she kept plugging during the concert. It was funny because while they were on stage, they told us about how they spent the day in the Cream City. Pinky and I pretty much did the same things they did, although our paths never did cross. So look out for the Wicked Divas in your city. You will "Thank Goodness" for a "Wonderful" "One Short Day". You will feel like "Dancing through Life".


Pinky said...

I really enjoyed watching Steven Reineke bop on the podium when he conducts. And the bopping got more bouncy during the Conga and Diana Ross numbers. Speaking of Conga, I've really never cared for that song but hearing it with the 88 peice orchestra was so wonderful. I've also never like My Heart Will Go On but JLT's version was so beautiful that night. As always, I love Julia's Back To Before but have always enjoyed her character voices in Ring Them Bells. It is a delight to see both ladies together on stage for they work off each other very well. What fun!

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