This past Friday marked the opening weekend of Broadway sensation “Wicked” at the Landmark Theater. Though “Wicked” is a very “Popular” show, it came close to, but fell short of, its goal of “Defying Gravity.”
Taking place in the merry ol’ Land of Oz – complete with emerald city, wonderful wizard, talking animals, munchkins and yellow brick road – “Wicked” actually has next to nothing to do with Dorothy and her odyssey to return home to Kansas, and everything to do with the witches who supposedly help shape her journey.
Instead, act one details a type of prequel into the lives of Elphaba and Galinda, including how they met and how they became known as the Wicked Witch of the West and Good Witch of the North, respectively. Except in this show, as is often the case in reality, it’s a little bit more complicated than good and evil.
Act two follows a parallel universe that provides alternative stories to the origins of familiar characters, with quirky references to Dorothy’s version of the story
Over the course of the entire play, the show offers answers to questions the audience might not have even thought to ask, including the source of the Witch’s greenness, the Tin Man’s absence of heart, and the wings of Elphaba’s flying monkey henchmen.
At the beginning of the show, Galinda poses to the audience, “Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”
Historical references such as these appear repeatedly throughout the show as little clues to what may be the play’s overarching theme: the subjectivity of truth and history, with their respective accuracies and fallacies.
“Where I’m from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true – we call it ‘history.’” This line, spoken by the fraudulent Wizard, perhaps best speaks to this idea that titles such as “Wonderful” and “Wicked” don’t always tell the full, or in any sense legitimate, story but instead what the masses are both made and willing to believe.
Moreover, sometimes people with the best of intentions, or who are in any sense different from the majority, are outcast.
The show’s extravagantly constructed set, intricately detailed costumes, and seamless transitions succeeded in leading audience members further down the yellow brick road. Unfortunately, these were the primary elements that disguised this off-Broadway caliber show as anything more than a glorified college performance.
Tiffany Haas (Galinda), a Virginia native, seemed much more bubbly when she was out of character in her post-bow speech than she did during the actual performance, when she constantly sounded as if she were about to burst into tears.
Meanwhile, between bouts of sulking, Anne Brummel (Elphaba) flew dangerously close to a certain tugging of the corners of the mouth that some might consider a smile during what were obviously intended to be scenes of frustration for her wickedly misunderstood character.
These and other lapses keep the audience held just beyond the fourth wall and remind all viewers that the performance is just that – acting.
A final but significant difference was the lack of adherence to the original soundtrack for what was probably the performers’ lack of vocal dexterity.
Despite its handful of shortcomings, “Wicked” nonetheless exceeded the expectations of a majority of viewers and satisfied the criteria for a show that is both entertaining and thought provoking.