"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wicked The Musical

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago and tickets to see Wicked - what a wonderful combination.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you...I have been changed for good...This is my first musical review. Tony and I met in Chicago to see Wicked. We sat in H26 & H24, the right-most seats pretty near the front. So it was a bit hard to see as some parts of the right stage were blocked off. Despite this it was the best musical experience I ever had. As I was telling people later, it was the most wonderful afternoon for me in a few months. And I'm sure many in the audience felt the same way - the standing ovation was itself nothing short of dramatic.

The plot is taken directly from Gregory Maguire's Wicked, the untold story of the Witches of Oz - in particular how the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch got their titles.
The story traces Elphaba's (Wicked Witch) ascent/descent: from a schoolgirl in a Harry Potter type magic school to a talented magician who gets to meet the Wizard of Oz to the feared and hated Wicked Witch of the West. Juxtaposed against this style is Glinda's rise to becoming the Good Witch. Unlike Elphaba the outcast, she is superficial, popular, "blonde" as Elphaba says. They start off hating each other but it later becomes a strong friendship despite them going separate paths, one standing up for what she believes in and generally doing very action things while the other remains the favorite of the people.

References to the original Wizard of Oz abound, most prominently seen in the depiction of how the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow came to be. The production is typically splendid. The props and stuff are quite nice, though I think they can't beat Phantom's Chandelier scene. The Emerald City part was ok too, though the sheer splendour is probably edged out by Phantom's Masquerade scene.

The script was quite funny, but most of all it was really engaging. There was political commentary too but that part, to me, was merely a prop, a backdrop for Elphaba's story. However, I do have to admit that I had never heard any of the songs until a co-worker loaned me her CD and after I listened to it a handful of times, I felt that they did grow on me.

So now I'll talk about the songs. Like I said, not too memorable. But there are a few which stand out. For me, the two songs that really seared this musical into me were Defying Gravity and For Good.
The first one hints of a "genius-type" witch. Elphaba, of course, has super magical powers, a talent that is not discovered until she activates it in rage that kinda thing. On the basis of her talent, she defies social conventions and what people say about her, choosing to go her own path rather than follow well-trodden ones. Thus defying gravity, which pulls people back to reality. It was very very exciting to see her gaining all her equipment and accessories, slowly decking herself out in black and becoming the Wicked Witch of the West that everyone is familiar with. At the end of Act 1 and the song, she flies into the sky in all her black and green glory and it's a really cool moment. The best part of this song, I think, is when she says "So if you care to find me look to the western sky."

But the second song is the one that sealed it. In the musical, it's slightly tragic because the friendship is doomed, but even without the context, I think the song is really beautiful. I guess it just gets to the heart of what I want to say to all my closest friends, and I'm not ashamed to admit that when the two actresses did this song I was moved to tears (slightly).

So I'll just end with some of the lyrics.

Glinda: I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return
Well I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good

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