By Amy Somensky Aug 15, 2004, 23:15 GMT
Wicked is based on the 1995 novel, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Some would call it a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, but Maguire calls it a re-imaging of the classic story or as the same story in another lifetime. Maguire’s book is very dark and gray in color and has been trimmed considerably for the musical. It deals with such issues as political oppression, the nature of evil and animal rights. The book serves as a basis for the story, but by no means is the story of Wicked. Compared to the book, the musical is downright cheery. Winnie Holzman, who was a writer on the short lived Clare Danes television program, My So Called Life wrote the book for the musical. She was smart to focus on the relationship between the two young witches of Oz. The green skinned Elphaba, who will grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West and the popularity queen, Galinda, who will go on to be the bubble flying Glinda the Good. This relationship is almost non-existent in the novel. This unlikely friendship goes from hate to love to hate and back to love again, like most friendships between girls. The story is funny, touching, heartfelt, heart wrenching, and witty all at the same time.
Who dropped a house on my sister?
The musical starts out with the death of the Wicked Witch who has seemingly been wreaking havoc all over Oz. The story then shifts back to the birth of the green skinned baby who is instantly shunned by her family and society. When Elphaba grows up she goes to Shiz University where she meets and instantly loathes the clothes obsessed popularity queen Galinda. It is not until each girl helps each other that they become friends. Elphaba is a champion of animal rights. In Oz there are animals that can talk and function in society. The Wizard wants them squashed and put in their place as, well, animals. So Elphaba and the newly named Glinda journey to the Emerald City to appeal to the wizard about the rights of animals. The wizard realizes Elphaba, a sorcery master, is a threat to him so he orchestrates a plot to make her out to look like a traitor and evil person. The wizard’s philosophy is “the best way to bring folks together is to give them a really good enemy.” Elphaba from then on is crowned the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, Glinda the Good. All of Oz now wants the wicked witch dead.
The core of Wicked is the two girls and their friendship. Elphaba and Glinda are beautifully brought to life by the immensely talented Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth respectively. The two are worth the price of admission hands down.
Menzel and Chenoweth compliment each other, each displaying their amazing talents. Menzel is the heart and soul of the show while Chenoweth is the light and grace.
Stephen Schwartz’s score is very poppish. It is very touching and heartfelt but is nothing all that original and defining. But despite that I love it. I have never heard lyrics that rhyme as much as these do. Each line from beginning to end follows one after the other. For example, “No good deed goes unpunished, sure, I meant wll - well, look what well meant did.” Defying Gravity and No Good Deed soar off the page with Menzel’s dynamic voice. Popular is a show stopping number sung outrageously by Chenoweth, and For Good is a touching closure to a friendship.
The Dragon and Map of Oz
Eugene Lee’s staging is awe inspiring. The curtain is a dazzling map of Oz with a sparkling Emerald City in the middle. The stage is a rustic forest with a giant mechanical dragon that comes to life lurking above the stage. It is enough to make anyone feel like they are not in Kansas anymore. The witch’s monkeys fly out over the audience, and in the climactic first act finale, Elphaba, as the newly crowned Wicked Witch, defies gravity and soars over the stage on her broom. I literally had goose bumps.
Elphaba Defies Gravity
Wicked has the combination all Broadway musicals strive for: a touching story, awesome staging, great characters, and a sense of familiarity in a story that we all loved as a child. With these qualities, Wicked could play on Broadway for ten or more years, and deservingly so. Broadway has found the musical of the future. Everyone can relate to the green girl with a heart who longed for love and acceptance in her life. We all long for the same things.
I only have one question? When I can I see it again.