Wicked: the musical that defies gravity

Jessica Pfeifer | Conant Crier

The lights went down in the James M. Nederlander Theatre of Chicago. A hush fell among the audience. The curtain displaying a map of Oz that glowed bright green, and a majestic metal dragon loomed over the top of the stage. I held my breath. Then the overture began.

My heartrate hastened, and I held my eyes open so wide I was sure they were about to burst. Two actors costumed as flying monkeys hopped on stage and pranced around. Then, the curtain rose. The entire cast danced to the opening tune, decked head-to-toe in steampunk-esque costumes. Within seconds, tears were streaming down my face. Somehow, I already knew that I was about to witness a show that would change my life forever.

What was I watching? Wicked. The story is based on the book by Gregory Maguire of the same name by Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz. Wicked is a musical that displays the events that occurred leading up to and during The Wizard of Oz, highlighting the perspectives of the good and wicked witches. The plot follows the driven, green-skinned Elphaba through her years in college and beyond, telling the tales of a series of life-altering events that cause her to be seen as “wicked” through the eyes of the rest of the world. Her initial enemy and eventual best friend, Glinda, helps Elphaba along on her journey to change the world—or maybe just survive it. An array of supporting characters assist in this mission, while others do everything they can to tear it down. 

The actress who played Elphaba, Lissa deGuzman, gave such a raw and real performance. Jennafer Newberry, cast as Glinda, was the perfect mix of annoying and loveable. The rest of the cast also did a phenomenal job telling the complex story that is Wicked, and the story would never have felt complete without the fantastic execution by the crew. The variety of perfectly painted massive moving backgrounds made the set visually fascinating, and the costumes were so brightly colored and meticulously crafted that they made me wish I lived in the world of Oz. The technical aspects of the show were also carried out incredibly well. Lights added vibrant color to the scenes onstage making every moment more compelling, and the sound allowed me to feel completely submerged within the story, which made the production all that more stunning.

Wicked is by far the most emotionally moving production I have ever seen performed on a stage. I left the theater with a feeling that I was seeing life through a new set of eyes. Think of your favorite movie. The plot, cast, and visual effects all work together to make it your favorite. Perhaps this movie made you laugh or even cry. Now take those emotions and crank them up to the power of ten. This is the impact that live theatre can have on one’s emotions. Especially with this show, both the tour cast and crew’s outstanding creativity and the imaginative plot of the show. While the execution of this show by the tour cast and crew was remarkable, I believe that what makes this show so special is its heart, the plot. Wicked is a story full of friendships, heartache, and betrayal. It teaches lessons that people of all ages can apply to their lives. 

Welcome to “Wicked: a musical that defies gravity” where I will dive into this show’s heart and dissect it bit by bit in order to discover what makes this musical so compelling. This is the first installment in this four-part series where we will discuss Wicked’s use of tropes as tools, positive portrayal of powerful women, and activism. The next installment comes next week on DATE. This article will cover Wicked’s use of tropes as tools.

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