Monday, September 19, 2011

In the Big City: Changed for Good

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of musical theater.  And as long as I have been a fan, I have always rooted for the musical underdog.  I longed to be Eponine in Les Mis ,or  to be Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde, and to always choose the Phantom over Raoul.  So it makes perfect sense to me that I root for Elphaba in Wicked. The surprising part was how utterly and completely I fell in love with her...

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Yesterday, I had the supreme pleasure of seeing Wicked on tour at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh.  We ordered these tickets about 10 months ago, and when we did, it felt like September would never arrive.  I spent the months between ticket purchase and show date reading Gregory Maguire's book, reading several of L. Frank Baum's original Oz books, and pretty much memorizing the original Broadway cast recording, as it has been playing in my car's cd player since about April.  I had never been so excited to see a show in all my life.

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My mom and sister were taking a bus tour from Ohio, and I was meeting them at the theater.  I arrived nearly two hours early.  Excited much?  Once we they got there I could not wait to take my seat.  These were, by far, the best seats I have ever had to a show, and well worth the money.

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When the curtain went up, and the Time Dragon flapped his wings, I was instantly mesmerized.

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The show we saw had the understudies for both Glinda and Elphaba performing, but you would never in a million years know it.  The actress who portrayed Glinda was genius, her comic timing was fantastic.  That is probably the thing that surprised me most about the show, since I was familiar with the story and the music already.  I never anticipated how funny it was.  And the writing for the show is so smart.  Biting wit, subtle foreshadowing, and poignant truths are all revealed in both the lyrics and the dialog of the show.

Elphaba is the one who really steals the show, and this performance was no exception.  I tingled as she took the stage, and wept as she sang of defying gravity.  She is a symbol for all who have ever felt alienated.  She is so different, with her green skin, her magic abilities, and her strong opinions.  She is different, and in her difference she is beautiful, tho her differences are what also make her feared.

The story is a brilliant blend of a love story, the story of the power of friendship, and an eye opening lesson on  how we view good and evil, often myopically.  The story works allegorically in several ways, when viewing public opinion of leaders, as well as the disenfranchisement of various minority groups.  This show contains more than music and laughter, it contains life lessons.

When I was little, I was in love with The Wizard of Oz, and wanted to be Dorothy.  Every year for Halloween, I begged to be Dorothy.  I even had a little dog that looked like Toto, but since she was a girl we named her Muffin.  I was certain I was Judy Garland reincarnated.  As a girl I wanted to be Dorothy, but now, I deeply, desperately, want to be Elphaba.

I promise you two things:

This will not be the last time I see Wicked.


If you go see Wicked, you will be changed for good.