I almost flew to Singapore to catch this show at the Marina Bay Sands. A friend of mine actually did, and she so kindly took home a souvenir eco-tote for me. I’ve stared at it longingly ever since. So obviously, the moment I saw that green smirking face plastered on the newspaper, I pledged my attendance, ticket cost and theater companion be damned.
Wicked was a good follow through to the desperate, intense romantic tragedy that is the Phantom of the Opera, the Broadway musical that lay claim on Philippine shores and ate my heart whole last year. Wicked the musical (full title: Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz) runs on the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz, and is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which in turn is a parallel novel of the L. Frank Baum‘s 1900 classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I say “based” because the musical is a ray of light in the way the novel never tried to be. Though under the laughs, witty jokes and impeccable dialogue run the dark shadows of Maguire’s political and social commentary. It was a good marriage, giving the musical the solid backbone its plot required.
OZ and the Witches of. They say that in a good show, the set and props are characters on their own. In Phantom, it was the chandelier and the lair. In Wicked, for me, it was the time dragon clock, lording ominously over each scene with a deathly presence to shame Smaug. It was the actual cast of characters however, that brought life to shame the many lights on stage.
Madam Morrible was a welcome antagonist, pretentious, sly and tyrannical in an elegant style that paled the Wizard himself, who was a tyrant precisely because he was weak and powerless. It had to be said though that Morrible reminded me of High School Musical’s Mrs Darbus. It must be the coif and the wave of her hands. But that’s a good memory, yes?
Steve Danielsen was the dashing and deliciously vapid Fiyero, but vapid if only at the beginning. Fiyero was not an object of a love triangle in the book, and I’m still unsure if it was a wise move in the musical. But it was welcome, if only for the shrill giggles he elicited from Glinda, the awkwardness of first love he shared with Elphaba, and the many times he brandished his sword. Yes, that too.
Sisters from another mother. The heart of the story was arguably the painfully mismatched friendship between Glinda and Elphaba. The fact that they had so many differences and so little in common makes their bond all the more true, and as the plot proved, all the more resilient in spite of Glinda’s vanity and Elphie’s stubbornness. Suzie Mathers gives heart to Glinda’s spoiled blonde head the way Reese Witherspoon did for Elle Woods. I imagine Mathers was a bit short on the genius that is Kristin Chenoweth. But she delivered, lighting up the stage with little help from all the sequins and sparkles on her dresses. Jemma Rix made the green skin and the black hat believable and relatable, which is a terribly mean feat. Through her you see an insecure girl hardened by a want of love and acceptance, and you cheer for her because you know her, and maybe have even been her.
For the better, for good. I admit it. I first heard Defying Gravity from the Kurt-Rachel sing-off in Glee, followed by a butchered version care of Winston Bishop on his drive across the border in New Girl. I was in love with song before I even read the Wicked book. But watching it live, clear, whole and sonorous out of Rix’s mouth–it was just otherworldly. I think my companion succinctly explained when she said, a heap of destroyed tissues in hand, “I’m crying but I don’t understand why.”
I did know though why I was crying come For Good, what for me was the climactic song in the show. From Glinda’s insightful musing, “that people come into our lives for a reason”, to her first positive reaffirmation, “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good,” at which point I was long gone. You have to be heartless to not have remembered a cut tie, a love lost, a dearly departed, a friend either here and now or long gone.
I guess if there is anything Wicked reminded me, is that there are stories that pull you out of your reality, only to throw you back in, more enriched and more self-aware. It is these stories that stay with you, and they are wicked good.
Photo and video credits to owners.