The Gustavian Weekly

Every story has a backstory, even among the wicked | The Gustavian Weekly

By Anna Yost Staff Writer | September 24, 2010 | Variety

We all are familiar with The Wizard of Oz. Young Dorothy is carried off by a tornado to the magical land of Oz. Innocently, Dorothy’s house lands on top of the sister of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.Glinda the Good bestows the sister’s head-turning ruby slippers to Dorothy. Due to Dorothy’s ill-timed landing, her journey to find a way back home is haunted by the Wicked Witch. Unfortunately, Elphaba, is unfairly represented in The Wizard of Oz.

Wicked gives justice to Elphaba. Through song and dance, the account of how Elphaba came to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West is revealed.

Wicked opens with Oz celebrating the death of the feared Wicked Witch of the West, thanks to young Dorothy. The Ozians turn to the good witch, Glinda, for confirmation of this celebrated death and to dispel the rumors that she and Elphaba were once friends.  Glinda responds with an explanation of Elphaba’s unlucky past and how they, indeed, became friends.

Elphaba was misunderstood from the moment she was born. Elphaba was born to a mother and a father, just as any other Oz is. However, as a result of Elphaba’s mother’s secret affair with a mysterious man, Elphaba is born green. Her father found her green skin to be disgraceful and blamed Elphaba for her sister’s handicap. Elphaba grew up assisting her sister and was not relieved the duty when she and her sister went to Shiz University.

Shiz was no different from the rest of the world. The students at Shiz gaped at Elphaba’s green color and kept their distance. Just like any other school, there was the popular girl; this popular girl happened to be Glinda. Glinda was blond, perky and concerned only with matters involving her.  To both Elphaba and Glinda’s disgust, they were placed in the same dorm room. Their dislike for each other continues to grow until they hit a turning point in their relationship. An unexpected friendship is born between the popular, blond Glinda and the misunderstood, green Elphaba. Glinda discovers humility and honor in Elphaba.

As Elphaba and Glinda’s friendship deepens, they journey to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz. Following their encounter with the Wizard, their friendship takes a downward spiral, and the friends take different paths. Their encounter with the Wizard of Oz leads to the fulfillment of their destinies as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.

Attempting to keep my expectations down of such a highly recommended musical, my excitement was raised upon walking into the Orpheum and seeing the stage with a curtain displaying a map of Oz and donning an enormous dragon atop. The set was extravagantly designed. Set pieces on wheels and on tracks in the stage allowed for numerous and speedy scene changes. The dark colors enriched the appeal of the set. When Elphaba and Glinda reached the Emerald City, the stage blinded the audience with flashing green lights. There was no space for disappointment in the set design.

The costumes only enhanced the extravagant set. The chorus members had outfits only one could wear onstage and in the Land of Oz. Each chorus member had a unique costume that fit the scene.

Glinda’s costumes sold her perky, popular, blond character.  Her costumes were soaked with sparkles, perky colors, flounce and innocence. On the other hand, Elphaba’s costumes established that we must look beyond the surface to find true character. Elphaba wore varying simple black frocks throughout the show.

The musicality of Wicked almost gave me goose bumps. The entire cast sang with the entirety of their bodies. There wasn’t a moment when they could have sung out more.

The cast’s voices and acting were flawless and true to their characters. Katy Sandberg, Senior Communication Studies Major, raved about the acting. “The talent that was showcased at this production was incredible.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t experience the full goose bump effect, because it was difficult to understand the lyrics to the musical numbers. The actors’ lines were also unclear. It was difficult to be engaged in the music when you were always struggling to hear the words.

The difficulty may have been partly due to the location of my seat. Although the Orpheum is grand and delicately adorned, not every seat in the house may be good. From where I was seated, it was not only difficult to make out the words, but it was also difficult to see the facial expressions of the actors. Therefore, I am planning to jump at my next opportunity to see Wicked. Next time, I will make it a point to grab seats up close and personal with the actors. Then, I hope to be consumed by the famed Wicked.

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