Broadway Magic: Wicked!

JULY / AUG 2012: BY ELLA G.

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The opportunity to experience magic only comes every so often; you must seize it while you have a chance. The feelings of fantasy, of being transported to another world where anything is possible and you can be all that you ever wanted to be—these emotions are common when we are young but as we get older, we are jaded by real life. It’s harder to escape into a different world when we are fixed on a realistic world. However, people try it often and the lights and marquees of Broadway usually aid in that, even if it is only for a few short hours. We watch as ordinary individuals just like us put on makeup and costumes and become something new. They play a part and we are envious; we wish we could be in their shoes.

I’ll never forget the day when those Broadway lights made their way to my hometown. While we aren’t out in the sticks, my “big city” is far removed from other cities. When news that the Tony Award winning show Wicked! was going to be around for a week, I just knew I had to go. Coworkers were telling me how amazing it was. I was loosely familiar with some of the songs and plotlines. Plus, I wanted to feel close to New York City, one of my dream locales, in some form or other. Spending the amount of money I did on tickets freaked me out but I knew that it would be worth it. The ticket stubs to that magical evening are still in my possession. Floor section, row M, seats 9 and 10. I can close my eyes and remember the sets, the gigantic clock on the stage. The excitement of other theatergoers was palpable. I imagined they had much the same thoughts as I did—Wicked! was going to be brilliant and we would definitely understand why it won Tony Awards. I remember my heart stirring as the beginning song started its crescendo. I was bouncing in my seat—it was starting! A Broadway show was in my city and I was witnessing it!

Into the world of Oz, my mother and I stepped. It’s the place where animals can talk and teach; monkeys can fly. Spells are concocted at a moment’s notice and witches are in existence. Perhaps you have made such a step into this land yourself? Wicked is the story of Elphaba, the strange, green girl, and the popular girl Glinda. They meet at Shiz (boarding school) and form an unlikely friendship. Both dream of a visit to the Emerald City and an audience with the Wizard of Oz. Circumstances ensue that grant Elphaba this opportunity, but it doesn’t go as planned. She gets her hands on a spell book and… well, you know the rest. Elphaba earns a reputation of being a wicked witch and must flee. But is she really so bad? And what happens to all of the people in her life? After all, all she has ever done is love and try to protect them. What about Glinda? Is she innocent even though she has a “good” reputation? It is a fascinating story really.

After the second curtain call, I still felt a part of Oz. I had seen The Wizard of Oz, so I was familiar with the “Wicked Witch of the West” and of “Glinda the Good Witch,” but now everything looked different. I saw the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man in a whole new light. Elphaba didn’t seem all evil and wicked; I saw her heart. As I exited my row, I knew my evening would always stay with me and hold the place in my heart of the first Broadway show I ever saw. It also was the first Broadway show album to find its way onto my MP3 player. Singing the songs all the way home must have been a common occurrence for all who had been in the theater. I know I did. “Defying Gravity” is such an amazing tune and the song Elphaba sings with her love Fieyro, “As Long as You’re Mine” is slightly sensual and totally romantic. “Popular” is catchy and “I’m Not That Girl” could have been sung by most girls at some point in their lives. The entire soundtrack is something amazing and aids in keeping the magic alive.

You would think the novel upon which the musical is based would be the same, right? As a librarian, I try to have an open mind about most books but frankly, I don’t know how Gregory MacGuire’s novel ever got published. It is well nigh impossible to enjoy it. In the first hundred pages, this reader was struck by the level of the innuendo (of which the Broadway show had next to none) and how downright boring the story was. And the book came first! Where the show had magic, the book slogged through a mire of mud. The characters did not jump off the pages; it took Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel to do that. I could only get through the first hundred pages (through sheer perseverance, not enjoyment). I had to give up. All who I have talked to are in much the same boat. We all tried the book and we all gave up. It certainly didn’t “defy gravity.”

There’s a spiritual lesson in that. We can be individuals stuck in the mud. Our sins can slog us down and make it impossible for us to be magical and at our brightest, most beautiful self. That is where Christ comes in. He is the One who picks us up, wipes off the mud, writes a better story for us than the one we penned for ourselves, and puts us on the stage He wants us a part of. The Lord is in the business of writing many Tony Award winning screenplays; his children are the high caliber “actors” on the world’s stage—the stage that gives Him the glory.

I got an amazing Broadway memory and a spiritual truth out of a horribly boring book. That is truly magical. Magic does exist in the world; it just takes many forms. ■

julyaug2012

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