When I was a child the annual telecast of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, regularly frightened me. Too many flying monkeys for my taste. The character of the wicked witch was especially disturbing. In Wicked we are given a much more sympathetic treatment for this person. First, she is given a name, Elphaba, and not just a job title, the Wicked Witch of the West. Central to this retelling is the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. They first meet in sorcery school, where Glinda is the popular girl and Elphaba is, well, green. “I’m sure Elphaba is very bright…” “Bright? She’s phosphorescent!” These two women are thrown together as roommates. “Oh! It seems the artichoke is steamed.” Where overcoming their differences and different backgrounds, they eventually become friends.
Cue the love interest. Enter Fiyero, the hunky if somewhat vaporous big man on campus. Setting up this story’s love triangle for the big ball. “What’s in the punch?” “Lemons and melons and pears…” “Oh, my!” An invite from the Wiz leads these women of Oz, to the Emerald City, where like Dorothy, they find the wizard a little underwhelming. Dorothy’s ruby footwear slips into the story when Elphaba creates them for her wheelchair bound sister, giving her a chance to turn her life around, at least until someone drops a house on her. “It’s dreadful, it is to have a house fall on you… but accidents will happen…” “You call this an accident?” “Well maybe not an accident…” “Well what do you call it?” “A regime change… caused by a bizarre and unexpected twister of fate…”
Wicked is a delightful musical. Its interplay with the original Frank Baum source material is always witty. Near the end, at the witch’s castle, we hear the Elphaba side of the conversation, in response to prisoner Dorothy’s crying, “Oh, for Oz’s sake, stop crying! I can’t listen to it anymore! You want to see your Aunt Em and your Uncle what’s his name again? Get those shoes off your feet, little brat! Who takes a dead woman’s shoes, must have been raised in a barn!”
In Wicked every character has a new and different backstory and the audience is always given another point of view. With its themes of abuse for the color of your skin and the wizard’s abuse of power, this show still seems as au currant as ever. There is even a witch hunt scene, complete with pitchfork wielding rabble. All of this is presented so lovingly that at least for a few hours one can forget ones troubles and what is going on in life and try Defying Gravity.
Oh yeah? But what about her emails?