About five years ago, I stumbled on a book by Gregory Maguire called Wicked. I had heard about it for ages and people had been telling me I should read it but no one ever could have told me how much I loved the story of Elphaba Tropp. I have always loved the Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland version and the Wizz), but this retelling of the story makes that one, a so shortly seen character, loveable. Yes, the green witch that we used to love seeing melted in the Wizard of Oz so loveable.
It took me ages to see the musical and the net is even buzzing with the possibility of a film. A few weeks ago I saw an article where someone had created a look to what the characters from wicked would look like in Disney style and now I kind of want an animated version with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in the roles of Elphaba and Galinda respectively.
So after all this time, and having someone joining me in London who also has a love for musicals was the ideal time to see the musical.
Arriving at the Apollo Victoria (near Victoria Station), is like stepping into the magical world of the Wizard of Oz. The whole decor has been turned green, going from green carpets to green lights to light the way to toilets and the seats.
They have great marketing strategy here too, in the entrance hall, they have multiple stalls with merchandising. A lot of people would go for this even before seeing the show as they have read the book and want merch to go with it. I lost myself a little and besides buying a program booklet (a usual thing for me to do when I go to the theatre), I did get Wicked socks (one Elphaba and one Glinda sock) and an over-soft scarf that commemorates the 10 year run of the show in London.
When we got to our seats, we saw side stage which was all clockwork and on top there was a big clockwork dragon. The curtain is a map of Oz as it also can be found in the book by Gregory Maguire but the city of Oz glows green. I really liked this already and the show hadn’t even started.
The show starts with the ending. The wicked witch is death (hey no spoiler if you’ve even seen the Wizard of Oz) and the song is “No one mourns the wicked” (it’s been stuck in my head ever since). Once the song is done the inhabitants of the city of Oz ask Glinda if it’s true that she knew the Wicked Witch of the West and this is the start of the story, how Glinda met Elphaba and how she became to be the Wicked Witch of the West.
The songs are really correct for the setting and the story. I was hoping they would be since I had only read the book before and heard a handful of the songs, I was still wondering where they would fit in and if they even would fit in.
Then there is the love triangle between Galinda, Fiyero and Elphaba. Even though Fiyero comes over as a bit of a dumb twit, it seems that he has his heart in the right place and after dating Galinda does choose in the long run for Elphaba. To win his love back, Galinda decides to change her name to Glinda, all for the wrong reasons.
By the end of the first half, Elphaba has been disillusioned by the Wizard and takes him at his word that “Everyone should be free to fly” and the culmination is “Defying Gravity”. I have known this song for ages now, and I’ve always seen it as a very powerful song about standing up for yourself. Here, sung by Rachel Tucker, it’s pulling the heartstrings so hard that my tears started to stream. She finally gets here freedom from oppression (first her dad, then the wizard).
The second half of the show is the further declaring of how Wicked the witch is, while for me this seems more like bullying and misunderstanding that she is standing up for a minority (Animals).
The culmination of the story is what we all know from the Wizard of Oz, the wicked witch of the west melt when a bucket of water is thrown over her. This can be seen through the curtain behind which Glinda is hiding.
But there is a happy ending, as this was all a show. Glinda had to think and be sure that the Elphaba is dead. Therefore she and Fiyero have set this up. And they lived happily ever after.
This ending is, by the way, the same as the feeling I had at the ending of the book, although if I remember correctly this was not described specifically. It’s also the feeling that for me can
Throughout by accident, and just trying her best Elphaba transforms Boq and Fiyero in a tin man and a scarecrow respectively. This together with the lion cub she saved at Shiz will become the iconic companions Dorothy in her quest to get back to Kansas. This only shows that the people come to “kill” her are only there because of her doing (save Dorothy who is wearing Nessarose’s shoes – Elphaba’s sister).
Would I see it again? In a heartbeat, even though the end gets me so emotional and the tears were streaming, in a heartbeat I’d go see it again. Even thought the biggest disadvantage is having “Popular” stuck in your head for days on end after it!