After all these years, thanks to Alli Mauzey I finally liked WICKED. I had first seen it shortly after it had premiered on Broadway, with Kristen, Idina, Joel Grey, et al., and admired their performances while remaining unconvinced by the piece itself. I went back with friends few years later and saw it again (can't remember who was in the cast then), and basically had the same lukewarm reaction to it as a whole.
But last night, I finally understood why the musical is so well-liked, and at the core of my reaction was Alli Mauzey's performance. Her Galinda was a richly nuanced mix of hilarity and vulnerability, incisively funny when called for but also understated and thoughtful at points of less exuberance. Her voice negotiates easily the two-octaves-plus of this role, with crystal clarity in all registers --she sings the hell out of it -- but I'd expected that. As a composer, hers is a voice that commanded and inspired my attention immediately when I first encountered it, and I've known of Alli's rather magnificent vocal instrument and seemingly effortless technique for some time now.
But I've only gradually been becoming aware of her range and craft as an actress, and especially her masterful relationship to comedy. With innate timing, verbal dexterity and exuberant physicality, she is really a classic comedienne in the best old-school sense. Having already been inspired by her ability to sing, I've been newly floored of late by her surefooted and highly creative command of comedy.
My friend Karina Gonzalez (herself a world-class artist, albeit in the field of ballet), who doesn't know Alli at all, went to the performance with me and made two observations which were telling:
1) She was convinced by intermission that Alli's own personality must be a lot like Galinda's "in real life," because she found Alli's verbal inflection and physicality "so honest." She felt that Alli made the manic mannerisms seem perpetually spontaneous and "true" to each moment, as though it must have been happening spontaneously rather than being rigorously rehearsed. For Karina, Alli's Galinda felt very real, genuine, full of "truth.," because all of the schtick seemed so organic to the character in every moment. (No-one could have been more surprised than Karina was to meet Alli afterwards and instantly realize that she is not at all like Galinda). ;)
2) She also gave Alli one of the ultimate compliments an actor can receive: "When she wasn't on the stage, you couldn't wait for her to come back."
I agree wholeheartedly. In fairness, that reaction to Galinda is to some extent built into the character and book itself. But in the midst of an extremely fine cast (including an impressively strong and earnest Elphaba, sung and acted splendidly and triumphantly by Jackie Burns) there is no question that for all Galinda's farce and silliness, Alli has made her the most fascinating and complexly-motivated person in the show. She is no cartoon character here.
We're not just talking "the legacy of Kristen Chenoweth" at work here. This is very much the sparkling individual brilliance of Alli Mauzey.
Her performance in WICKED made it a different show for me -- and a commendably finer one in my opinion.