Let’s not dawdle with long-winded introductions. The rest of this article will be long enough. Let’s just get right to it.
I went into Wicked not really knowing what to expect. I knew only some bare bones things about the plot, namely that it’s The Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s perspective… sort of. I knew Glinda (or Galinda, whatever) was going to be some kind of a bitch. I knew, somehow, the characters of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion were gonna be in it. That’s basically it. And I feel like going into this not knowing what I was getting into helped to make this a fantastic play-going experience.
If you’re vaguely curious and/or plan to see this play for the first time soon, stop reading and doing research. Trust me, if you even remotely like musicals, you’ll enjoy this.
Right. Down to the nitty gritty.
I’m going to take this categorically, talking about the play in steps. Let’s start with what seems to be the most basic: The story.
I’ll admit, when the play started to get going, I had a bit of a bad feeling. If you don’t know (and are still reading this even though I told you not to), the first, let’s say fourth or third, of this play sort of takes place as Elphaba (The Wicked Witch) and Glinda (Galinda, whatever) are in high school, I think. So, I was sort of thinking “Oh great. It’s High School Musical: The Oz Years.” Wow, was I ever wrong. In some ways, this play is a buddy comedy that just happens to start around high school. However, the meat of this play has to do with the complexities of right and wrong, good and evil, the argument of intent versus outcome and whether the bad things that happen are worth the good intentions that drove them…
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself and way too philosophical for a blog.
The story of Wicked is simple enough. We see what life was like for the Wicked Witch and the Glinda the Good Witch before and during the events of The Wizard of Oz. Basically they start off as roommates at a boarding high school that teaches subjects like magic. A Hogwarts of Oz, if you will. Elphaba was born green, which causes her to be mocked and stared at constantly. Glinda was basically the most popular cheerleader in school. Thanks to a series of semi-traumatic events, they become great friends and travel to the Emerald City to meet the wonderful Wizard of Oz. But is the Wizard really that great and powerful? And why are all the animals, who used to be thinking, talking beings in this world, starting to lose their voices? You’ll have to watch the play to find out.
Notice how I said “watch the play” instead of “read the book.” I’m aware of the book series. I, in fact, tried to read the first book a few years ago. I got literally a page in before I fell asleep. It was just that boring. I find that if a book doesn’t capture my attention from the beginning, I just can’t read it. But I digress.
What makes this play work so well is the dynamic between the characters. Elphaba is a true underdog who keeps getting crap handed to her but she’s still trying to be good at heart. Glinda, while at first seeming really shallow and selfish, turns out to be a real social person who’s easy to get along with. And once you realize the story is tying into the movie we all know and love, you find yourself trying to guess which characters will turn out to be the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. This play does a fantastic job of tying in the story everyone knows. And it will keep you guessing around every twist.
In my opinion, there are no real bad guys in this play. Sure, there are people who do bad things, but they do so with at least semi-good intentions. The play tries to paint the Wizard as a bit of a bad guy, but I just don’t see him as all that bad. And I feel like I’ve spoiled a little bit of the play for you already, so allow me to simply move on.
This play is a musical, so obviously there were songs in it. And, let me tell you, all of the songs are fantastic. I’ve seen a few musicals in my time, and this play somehow finds a way to feel completely unique in its songs. There are so many of them that I can’t really remember them all, but I’ll tell you about my four favorites in rising order.
“Wonderful” is sung by the Wizard. During the song, the Wizard is trying to talk about his point of view, how he became the Wizard, and why he does what he does. It’s a really fun song that shows off the talent of the man playing the Wizard and shows what an energetic character he is.
“No Good Deed” is sung by Elphaba and it comes at a time when, well, her world gets really dark. So she starts singing about how her good deeds have only gotten bad results. So she vows to never do a good deed again. If I had to pick one, I’d say this was the villain song of the piece, showing us that Elphie can really be mean if she puts her mind to it. And if you know me, you know that I LOVE a good villain song. And this is certainly no exception. It’s a dark and delicious song that makes you really think about the outcomes of your actions.
“For Good” comes much later in the play and is sung by Elphaba and Glinda as a duet. Basically, the two are saying good bye to each other. The song puts forth the sentiment that those who we become close to in our lives significantly change us forever. It’s a really touching song, showing us the “Wonderful Life” lesson that each person effects so many others, often in positive ways. It simply brought a tear to my eye when I heard it.
“Defying Gravity” is probably the most well known song from this play. And it is the most popular for a reason. This song is AMAZING and it takes great talent to pull it off well. Coming at the end of the first act, this song has Elphaba declaring that she will no longer be shackled down by other people, declaring herself capable of even defying gravity. It’s a great duet with her and Glinda trying to convince each other to look at things from their point of view. It also turns into an ensemble piece toward the end. And that last note just sends shivers up my spine every time.
I don’t have much to say about the sets and choreography, so I’m sure you won’t mind if I just skip those aspects.
I think this may be one of my favorite musicals ever now. Everything about it simply works. The story is very unique and intriguing, the characters are complex and really likable, and the music is simply phenomenal. If you like plays, if you like musicals, it’s simply a must watch. If you’ve seen it already, see it again. And just as a heads up. The movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, is not good at all, so don’t watch it. (I know this has nothing to do with this blog, but I felt I had to warn you). As for me, I’m gonna find those magic shoes. Do you think they work the same way if you wanna get to Oz?