Pop Culture

Wicked Words: Musings on “Wicked: The Musical”

So let’s talk musicals and theater. Let’s talk about the musical I just saw. Let’s talk about “Wicked!”

I went to see the musical a few weeks ago with my mom and my sisters, and I have to say it was amazing. Having read both the Oz books as a child and the first two books of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series, upon which the play was based, I was pretty familiar with the back story and had a good idea of how Maguire had introduced some of his own elements in his interpretation of Oz. It followed the basic story of the first Wicked book, but also took a delightful departure from it.  Glinda and Elphaba

The main theme we see is the choice of whether or not to conform to the status quo, particularly when those in power do so many questionable things and oppress innocent people. Elphaba and Glinda perfectly represent this dichotomy. Elphaba, who has always had ambitions of working alongside the Wizard in governing Oz, is shocked and disillusioned when the Wizard only uses her to decipher the incantations in the Grimmerie. She puts aside all of her ambitions to do what is right and fight against the wrongs of the Wizard’s regime, and in the end she is willing to make sacrifices so that she can protect herself and those around her.

Glinda, however, is much different. While many times she might come across as selfish, particularly after she and Elphaba part ways, it’s evident that she is doing what she can to make a small difference and to somehow save Elphaba. It takes her much longer than Elphaba to see what kind of man the Wizard truly is, and in the end, she assists Elphaba’s endeavors to some degree. But her chance comes just as news of Elphaba’s demise reaches the Emerald City, and she does what she can to not only rid Oz of the Wizard, but do so in such a way to keep the peace and maintain the status quo.

All in all, “Wicked” isn’t just a story about two women who have become unlikely friends, but about two women who did what they knew to be right and changed the world around them, one from outside the system, and the other within it.

9 replies on “Wicked Words: Musings on “Wicked: The Musical””

I’ve been wanting to see this for ages! The ticket prices, even the cheap seats were outta my price range last time they were in my neck of the woods but it is supposed to be coming ’round my way next spring/summer and my mom already asked if that’s what I’d want to do for my birthday! I’m so excited that in less than a year I’ll finally be able to see it!!

I remember some of my friends raving about Wicked and I did not have the same taste in pop culture as these friends so I frankly dismissed it off-hand. Then the touring production came to town and my mom bought us tickets.

I’ve never been so wrong in my life. I LOVED it. I cried at the the end of Act 1 and I hardly ever cry. It’s definitely one of my faves now.

I cried and cried at the very end. 

I think what’s so amazing about it is how relevant its themes are in today’s society and in America’s political climate, with another presidential election coming up.  Every time I see something from the Romney campaign, I think, “Oh, like how the Wizard’s regime tried to stomp out the Animals!  Nice!”

It totally does!  The women had very strong roles in Baum’s books, too (Glinda and Ozma), but I was–and still am–a bit put off at how the Wizard basically just swept in and took the throne from Ozma’s father.  The Wizard redeemed himself a thousand times over in Ozma’s service and as part of of her council, but I always wanted to know what was up with the Wicked Witches, the hows and the whys.  And how come the Wizard got a second chance, but the Witches didn’t?  It all goes back to how men are more easily able to tread the line between good and bad and can more easily redeem themselves in romances and fairy tales, whereas with women the lines between good and bad (the madonna and the whore, the witch and the pure-hearted maiden) are more clearly drawn, and there is almost no room for redemption.

Example: Mr. Rochester, particuarly as we see him in Wide Sargasso Seaand in the beginning of Jane Eyre.  His love for Jane helps to “bring him back to the light,” and the final part of his redemption is the fire at Thornfield, started by Bertha, which culminates in her death and the end of his old life.  He’s blinded in the fire, much like Saul was before he regained his sight and became Paul, and is able to start anew.  It’s sort of a purification of Edward Rochester by fire: the woman who supposedly led him down this horrible path is gone, and with Janer’s return, he can start to become a better man.

Maguire’s book leaves more room for Elphaba’s redemption, as she did have some goodness in her heart.  Much as Darth Vader/Anakin was redeemed through the deeds of his children in Star Wars, so is Elphaba redeemed through her son and granddaughter.  But the bad or morally ambiguous things Elphaba did were for very good reasons.  She just thought in the long-term and had a very “take-no-prisoners” attitude.  Which she has inWicked,but it’s tempered when she sees how it affects those she loves.

I love Wicked.  The theme that stuck out most to me is what makes someone “good,”  the very opposite of the question in the opening number.  (“Are people born wicked?  Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”)  College roommate and I loved it so much that when we had a caricature of the two of us done, we added the words “For you see my roommate is/unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe./Blonde.”  It’s hanging next to me as we speak.  We also went as Glinda and Elphaba for Halloween that year.  It took hours to get all the green greasepaint off me and she had glitter in her hair for weeks!  (Seriously, we were cleaning glitter off the floors when I moved out.)

I know one of the things I love about the musical Wicked is that it is very much driven by the women, which is unusual for most mediums, especially with something that managed to gain as much mainstream popularity as Wicked has.. I remember having a conversation with the BF at one point; he loves singing, and he will sing along to most any musical we listen to. One time we were listening (and singing) to Wicked, he commented that there weren’t many good male parts for him to sing, so most of them were out of his vocal range.

I laughed and said “Welcome to my world.”

Leave a Reply