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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Broadway’s “Wicked: The Untold Story of The Witches of Oz” at The Academy of Music

Glinda and Wicked(Elphaba) visit the Emerald City!

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

On Thursday the 27th of June I attended the hit Broadway Musical “Wicked”, which has had quite the run on stages all over the country. I’ve been wanting to see this show for quite a while, and prior to going I always thought that the basic premise of the musical was about capturing and documenting the wicked witch's(Elphaba) perspective on how events actually took place in the wonder-filled world of Oz. But after finally getting around to seeing it, I’ve realized that it’s about so much more than that.

The musical primarily focuses on the time before Dorothy makes it to Oz. We commence with Elphaba’s death, and then travel back in time with the use of flashback, as a way of revisiting Glinda and Elphaba’s childhood. The audience quickly learns of Elphaba’s unfortunate birth. Because she was born with green skin, her parents never could find the place to love her. Elphaba if forced to come to terms with this reality for the rest of her life, and her circumstance contributes to her behavior later in the story.When her sister, Nessarose, is born, though she is handicapped, Elphaba’s parents are so relieved that their second child is not green, and they make sure Elphaba is aware of their relief. Elphaba’s whole childhood is spent believing she is unsightly and worthless. From the beginning of the musical one of the major themes that define the play begins to take form upon the stage;that is the theme of self-identity and rejecting the status quo. While Elphaba receives no love from her parents, her spirit is not completely destroyed due to her sense of determination and humor. This was quite a powerful part of the narrative for me. Because I’m about to start my college search, I’m at a point in my life where I have to figure out who I am and who I want to be. I attend an arts boarding school, so I know, first hand, what it means to not fit into the box that society wants you in. So, through seeing this part of “Wicked”, it was almost like seeing all of my battles of identity on stage, up close and personal.

Soon the musical transitions. Elphaba and Nessarose find themselves at Shiz University, a co-educational university in which many of the main characters attend. It is here that Elphaba, later dubbed “Wicked”, encounters Glinda, the good witch of the south, for the first time. It is also here that the audience gets to see some of the remarkable acting come to life.  Galinda, played by the fabulous Jenn Gambatese, is brought into a whole new light, a light that was not present in the original telling of this story. Glinda comes from an affluent family, and her beauty and wealth are two of the main factors that gain her much popularity at the university. She is quite the bubbly type, with sass and pixie dust emanating from her very soul. Elphaba, played by the wonderful Laurel Harris, is a character that you grow to love throughout the play. She has an inclination to spout out dry humor, and she is one of the most candid and down to earth characters present in the narrative. Elphaba is given a lot of humanity in this musical. While Glinda and Elphaba do not take a liking to each other in the beginning, they grow a friendship that is quite unexpected.

While much of the expected school drama takes place at Shiz University, there is an underground movement going on in Oz. Many of the animals who have had important roles in the Oz community are suddenly losing their ability to speak. I feel as though this is symbolic of ones ability to fight the amoral  majority. Wicked has spent all her life as a minority, so she relates to the struggle that the animals face, especially after her professor, Doctor Dillamond( played by Clifton Davis) is fired due to the fact that he is indeed an animal with a profession that depends upon the act of speaking. Soon Wicked is summoned by the Wizard of Oz, and this is where things go awry. She discovers the Wizard’s lack of real power, and secret information concerning all the animals in Oz, and the Wizards involvement in this secret movement. She becomes disappointed and angered by this reality, and she starts to question everything she has ever believed in. It is this moment in her life in which she must make an important decision: linger in her own neutrality and ignorance, or take a stand for something that is in dire need of audacious freedom. She decides to take a stand and utilize her magic to rise against the oppressive powers of Oz.

While I don’t want to ruin the rest of the musical for you, I do want to touch on one more theme: the role of storytelling and truth. When Wicked makes her decision to go against the great powers, she puts the Wizard and his entourage in a very dangerous place. Because they don’t want to get found out, Galinda is ordered to twist the story, as a way of turning the citizens of Oz against her. This is not a musical about sides, this is a story about truth and the importance of documenting truth. This is a play about storytelling and lies. But most importantly, this is a story about not accepting the reality that is given to you. What I love about art is that it is a medium of expression that aims at doing just so:questioning reality and discovering other worlds. After seeing “Wicked” as an artist, as a writer, and as a global citizen, I was truly moved. Costumes, set design, and music was just simply fantastic! I really felt as though I had entered another world! I urge everyone to go out and support this show!

“Wicked” will be at the Academy of Music until August 4, 2013. To get specific times and dates for the performance, visit the link below!

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