The Heap Reviews “Wicked”

You will never look at The Wizard of Oz the same way after you see Broadway’s Wicked performed. The show’s tagline suggests that “so much happened before Dorothy droppped in,” as the performance tells the story of the rise and fall of Elphaba, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. But what the 1930’s film may present as a simple struggle between the emergence of good in a world long chastised by the grasp of wickedness, the play challenges the audience to actually discern what, or even to an extent who, is actually wicked. Instead, Wicked distorts the line between good and wickedness, and between truth and fable, by inviting the audience to consider a new perspective.

The opening number, “No One Mourns the Wicked” essentially picks up at the celebration of the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, with all the Ozians dancing and singing in jubilation. It’s clear cut, right? Wickedness has been defeated, and the reign of Glinda the Good can usher in an era of happiness and peace for The Land of Oz. Alas, as Glinda descends down, the audience can almost feel  her slight discomfort at the sight of the city’s celebration of the death of the witch. And so begins the true story of wickedness, and how its perception is merely based on perspective.

The play was absolutely spectacular because of how it highlights real world problems in the context of an imaginative setting. It turns out that the issues that plague the characters, as well as in general, that take place in the “Far Far Away Land of Oz”, are not so far away after all. Difference, censure, rights, politics and government are all topics n which “Wicked” makes touching, and at times, rather biting suggestions. It challenges the audience to look past the surface of not just people, but problems and even what is understood to be the unanimous “truth,” in not just the Land of Oz, but in our own universe.

The world is personified through the character of Fiyero, who arrives at Shiz as a careless and superficial transfer after being kicked out of numerous schools. His introductory song titled “Dancing Through Life” clearly illustrates the world’s eagerness to ignore the problems of the world and merely focus on oneself. Yet, as we learn more about Fiyero, the audience sees him change, though the play suggests that this change in perspective is an innate quality by instead conveying the idea that it has always been a choice, as he finally chooses to fly away with Elphaba. We have the capability to choose action or inaction. The real question is if you can live with the consequences of working for true justice in a world of distortions.

One of most interesting aspects of the play that I didn’t quite get until I thought about it deeply is why Elphaba must save Fiyero by removing his brain. If we interpret Fiyero as a characterization of us, then it becomes clear. In order to survive in this world, we have to become brainless in order to blend in, much like he is forced to in the field as the Scarecrow. Wicked suggests that despite the complications the play presents, a brain can easily make the choice Fiyero makes.

The play also plays with the age old philosophic debate of whether ignorance is really bliss. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ‘s character is revealed as somewhat of a phony, though his intentions are good. He, as a governing figurehead,  is eager to please his subjects, and falls prey to the power and popularity of his position. You can catch the quips made about the pressures of expectation and the political game if you listen closely. He was put into power to meet expectations, and to unify his subjects, even if it is under an illusion.

You will laugh, and you may cry due to pity and happiness, as Wicked invites you to defy gravity and rise against all hindrances the world throws at you. From the scenery, lighting, and performances of the cast, Wicked promises to be touching, emotional and empowering adventure at the theatre. It can also cause you to reflect and perhaps even change their perspective on how you view the world.

If you choose.

10 out of 10 Bags