Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wicked, the Musical

We saw Wicked, the musical, recently at the Orpheum Theatre. Wicked is quite a show. I had a switch flipped in my head that it was a comedy because it was a musical, but trust me, it isn't funny. It's a very good show, though - staging, dancing, singing, lighting, costumes, all excellent.

I started this post as a review of the show, but what I really want to do is talk about Elphaba, the Wicked Witch. I've now read the book and seen the musical, in that order (not always the best order!), and although the stories are quite different, the central character is very consistent in both forms. Elphaba is a misfit who was born with green skin. Everybody looks at her and shudders. She's also very bright, a rebel, and an underdog who passionately defends other underdogs.

There are sequences in both stories where Elphaba attends college away from home; this doesn't resemble my college years very much (I went to U.C. Berkeley, where nobody worried about "popularity" but the sorority girls), but it brought back vivid, painful memories of high school! It isn't fun to be unpopular in a school, any school. Some of the things Galinda (later Glinda, the "good witch") does to Elphaba just rang big, clanging bells for me. So by the middle of the first act I'm identifying solidly with the Wicked Witch (and resenting the way everybody treats her!).

In fact, Teal Wicks, who played Elphaba, was gorgeous, especially in the second act when she finally got some decent clothes! She had presence and style in the face of an appalling costume and everyone else's (acted) disdain. She has a fabulous low alto range, which I thought added substantially to the role. I love a good alto. And she visibly strengthened and matured her character through the show.

It's very clear in both the book and the musical that Elphaba's "wickedness" lies in her refusal to accept the wickedness of the people in power (speaking of people in power, you must see Patty Duke as Madame Morrible!); and that's as close as I'll get to a plot synopsis. Read the book yourself (or see the show!). We all know
how her story ends from the L. Frank Baum book (not to mention the movie!); but it's the story and not the ending that matters. And she maintains an integrity throughout her story that I wish I thought I had.

1 comment:

  1. Hedera: I think that many of us who went to the same high school you did had much the same experience with social stratification, ostracism, "conceit" etc.--which went well beyond the usual cliches. I'm not sure why that was, but it's been oft-remarked by other of our contemporaries.