Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Jim and I went to see Wicked last night, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. All I knew going in was that it was the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, with some hazy concept that it was her side of things, showing why she didn't deserve to be considered the villain of the original book/movie. Which... yeah, that's pretty much what it's about. As with most storytelling, though, it's the details that matter.

[Some spoilers, I guess, sorta.]

The characterizations were great, with no really cardboard characters among the main cast. Teenage Glinda (who starts out as Galinda) is first presented as a shallow, self-absorbed, tissue paper character, with her *Good!* persona deliberately worn in her quest to be liked. And while she's pretty dim throughout the whole story, she acquires dimension as events progress, and turns out likeable. Even if I still wanted to smack her occasionally.

Fiero, the love interest, is a Winkie prince who's proud of how many schools he's been thrown out of. Glinda assumes that as the pretty, popular blonde girl, she must be the Heroine and is therefore obviously going to "get" the handsome prince. Looking back, I think Glinda's major tragedy is that she's trying to be genre savvy but is failing horribly because she doesn't know what character she's playing.

Which is a lot of time to spend on someone who's not the protag, but in the original WoO, Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are opposites, contrasting and balancing one another. If we're going to change our view of the WWW, we have to change our view of Glinda as well, and the play spends a lot of time focused on Glinda, as the major supporting character, to do just that. The relationship between Glinda and Elphaba grows and changes, taking a couple of sharp corners along the way, and is arguably more interesting than the romantic relationship either has with Fiero.

Elphaba, the actual protag, learns the most and changes the least. Or rather, what changes is her understanding of how the world works and how far she can manipulate it, rather than her core personality. This is her story more than anyone else's (although we get some great background on the other Ozian characters from the original story) and we're focused on her throughout. I'll admit I had tears streaming for most of the play -- not sobbing or anything, but just overflowing, because although there aren't very many out-and-out sad scenes, the play opens with the celebration of the Wicked Witch's death, then goes to flashback, so through the whole thing, you know what's coming.

What it comes down to is that Dorothy was duped into taking a paid hit on someone who'd become inconvenient to the ruling establishment. Which is, you know, a rather cynical but definitely non-fairy tale way of looking back at The Wizard of Oz. [wry smile]

Oh, and the ending works beautifully. :)

Definitely see this if you have a chance. I hope they make a movie so everyone can see it without shelling out for expensive tickets, but for now, if you have the money in your entertainment budget, this is a great way to spend it.


Suzan Harden said...

Have you read Gregory Macguire's book that the musical is based on?

(Yes, I read Baum's entire original series as well as Macguire's book, watched the MGM musical countless times and seen Wicked on stage twice. No, I'm not an Oz freak. Now, where did I put those damn silver slippers? *grin*)

Angie said...

Suzan -- hee! No, I haven't read the book, although it's on my mental to-buy list. I read the first four or five Baum books, but about halfway through whichever book I finally bailed on, it felt like they'd descended into, "Characters go HERE, look around -- hey, isn't this sweet and delightful! Characters go THERE, look around -- oh, how lovely! Characters go ELSEWHERE...." I hadn't detected a plot in quite a while, so I wandered off.

Baum seemed to have a talent for worldbuilding, within the context of worlds thought appropriate for children in his day, but not so much for the plot thing. Or rather, since he did a good job of plotting the first two or three, maybe he just ran out of story ideas, but the demand was there so he kept going? I read somewhere that he got a lot of mail from little kids, asking questions and wanting to know when the next book would be published. Plenty of writers have kept going long after they should've moved on for that reason. [ponder] Or maybe he picked up again later and I just didn't get that far?

I'm definitely eager to read the book, though, especially now that I've seen the play. Good stuff!


Charles Gramlich said...

Perhaps even I would enjoy such a tale. :)

Angie said...

Charles -- you might well. :) My husband isn't into musicals and went just because I wanted to see it, and he had a much better time than he expected.


Suzan Harden said...

Charles, even my father-in-law (Mr. I-don't-get-into-girly-stuff) loved it. It's not exactly a sappy tale, though the Broadway gives the story a semi-happy ending.