One Short Day In The Emerald City – Wicked The Musical Review
The picture above epitomises everything I love about this musical. It’s a story of friendship and forgiveness, of being true to yourself even when you’re surrounded by people telling you you shouldn’t want to and why you should never, ever judge a book by its cover. I’ve been lucky enough to see this musical three times in the last 14 months and I still spend most of Act I trying not to sob out my feelings all over the floor. Wicked looks like good, fun times, and it is, but it’s not afraid to punch you right in the feels and impart some life lessons we could all do with remembering.
Wicked is set in The Land of Oz and tells the story of how The Wicked Witch of The West and Glinda The Good Witch of The North grew up and became the people we meet when Dorothy first arrives in Oz. It’s based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and while neither the novel nor the musical stay 100% true to the original book series or the movie the Wicked universe is very cleverly woven into the fabric of both. It’s an amazing take on where the characters Dorothy first meets in Oz came to be who they are when they cross paths. Make sure you watch carefully in Act II to see how it all comes together.
My absolute favourite thing about this musical is that The Wicked Witch isn’t 100% wicked and The Good Witch isn’t 100% good, they’re both just perceived that way by the citizens of Oz. That’s not to say their titles are completely inaccurate. Elphaba (yes, the Wicked Witch now has a name!) does a lot wicked things throughout the course of the show and Glinda does a lot of good things too, but they both do an equal amount of the opposite as well. What I love most about both of them is that they’re human, they have flaws, they make bad choices even though they’re often made with good intentions, they fight, they hurt each other but most importantly they learn from their mistakes and they find a way to forgive each other. They’re both such well rounded characters and not at all typical of the good vs. evil you see in a lot of theatre. One doesn’t have to triumph over the other; by finding a way to forgive one another and acknowledge the roles they’ve played in each other’s lives they’re able to move forward and both win.
While it’s never explicitly said throughout the course of the show, it is very heavily implied, as I mentioned above, that the titles of The Wicked Witch and The Good Witch come about through the perception of the citizens of Oz and the stories of both Elphaba and Glinda that are spread through the land. It’s a not very subtle comment on the damage that not letting the truth get in the way of a good story can do. Yet, when faced with all this, Elphaba remains true to herself. She has spent her whole life being told she’s not good enough, but she stands tall throughout, and while it would be very easy to make an ‘it’s not easy being green’ joke here, she never lets anyone else’s opinion of her change who she fundamentally is. And sure, there’s a while there where she wants to get rid of her green-ness (and this is such a great comment on teenagers not wanting to be seen as different), but when she finally decides to embrace it and let herself shine, it’s a truly magical moment and one of the highlights of the show.
And while we’re talking about characters embracing their inner awesome and letting themselves shine, let me tell you about Fiyero. I love that he’s also a character with flaws, who makes bad choices but with good intentions and in the end decides to stay true to himself when it might be easier for him not to. Also, I have to give props to the actor playing him in any production because the pants he first comes out in are EXTREMELY tight (in Auckland, I was in the second row and the ladies in the first 10 rows all went ‘ohhhh’ when he first appeared ;D) But mostly I love him because he says this:
Don’t get me wrong, I love teachers. They have a hard and thankless job and we’d all be lost without them. But I’m sure they’d agree a lot of the time they’re stuck teaching you the wrong lesson because the system says they have to.
Now you might be reading this and thinking ‘Captain, this doesn’t sound like good, fun times at all’ but trust me it is. The messages above are all wrapped up in a shiny, sparkly package and are not at all in your face. You can avoid them altogether if you want to and simply enjoy the phenomenal music instead. And let me tell you, it’s bloody awesome as are the special effects. They’ll have you ooh-ing and aah-ing from the second the show starts. The special effect for the last song of Act I is worth the price of admission alone. The songs range from blow-you-out-of-your-seat dynamic, such as Defying Gravity (SN: if Defying Gravity doesn’t get you out of bed and ready to kick the day’s arse I don’t know what will) and No Good Deed, to try-not-to-wet-your-pants hilarious such as Dancing Through Life and Popular and sobbing-in-the-aisles heart wrenching such as I’m Not That Girl and For Good. The range needed for both main roles, particularly Elphaba, will leave you stunned and sitting on the edge of your seat. And if all that hasn’t convinced you, then maybe a teacher who is a talking goat will. Yes, you read that correctly and believe me, it has been one of the highlight performances in all three productions I’ve seen.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to the Aussie and Kiwi productions I went to. I’ve listened to the Original Broadway soundtrack 4000 times (Idina remains my queen) and saw it for the first time on Broadway last year, and our productions have absolutely been on par with theirs, particularly Jemma Rix, who does an AMAZING job as Elphaba and Steve Danielson who has to wear Fiyero’s extremely tight pants every night.
If you ever get the opportunity to see Wicked, I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. You may not say you have been changed for the better, but you will say you’ve been changed for good (if you haven’t seen it yet, this sentence will make sense once you do :D).
**Images courtesy of Wicked in Oz’s Facebook**