Recently, the musical Wicked celebrated its tenth year on Broadway. This is certainly cause for celebration, especially in Broadway’s tenuous times where shows come and go so quickly, the stage door hits them in the ass on the way out. Yet Wicked endures and is wildly popular with audience members young and old. So what is it about the Stephen Schwartz musical that so enchants?
For starters, its powerful score. Schwartz is known for his very melodic and catchy tunes, and Wicked is loaded with them. From fun and breezy numbers like “Dancing through Life” to the soaring “Defying Gravity” to the heartbreaking “For Good,” the show’s music packs an emotional wallop. It doesn’t hurt that Wicked’s original cast was filled with so many wonderful performers. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel’s careers really took off after their star turns in the show, and Norbert Leo Butz is one of Broadway’s biggest box office draws. In the decade since it’s opening, the show has had many wonderful Elphabas and Glindas, and numerous touring companies bringing the show all over the world.
However, beyond all of that, is the story. One of friendship and love. Conformity and individuality. Duty and honor.
Wicked has always struck a chord with lesbian musical theatre fans as well. I took to Twitter to ask about what Wicked means to you.
Certainly the lesbian community has always gravitated toward strong, female characters and you don’t get much stronger that Glinda and Elphaba. While many Broadway musicals have female leads, Wicked stands out for its focus on the dynamic between the women and the very intimate world of female friendship. Friendship between women is not often portrayed with such complexity and tenderness as it is in Wicked. When Glinda and Elphaba meet, they are odds not just because of Elphaba’s unusual pallor, but because of a deep-seated mistrust their Ozian society taught them to have for other women and anyone different from themselves.
Yes, I’m making Wicked a statement on feminism. Frankly, Oz isn’t that much different than our own world. Yet somehow an uneasy friendship is formed, which turns into the deepest relationship in the show. The real love story in Wicked isn’t Fiero and Elphaba; it’s Elphaba and Glinda.
Some fans even romantically ship the witches (Gelphie), what with all the longing looks and singing their hearts out to one another. Who hasn’t stood on the precipice of a relationship and realized that they had been forever changed by love? Or felt the sting of seemingly unrequited love for someone you never thought you could have? That is the beautiful thing about Wicked. You can take what you want from it because the yellow brick road is open to you. Is the show an allegory for the gay experience? Listen closely to the music, you might hear your story. Speak your truth, it tells us. Soar above the fray. Defy logic, defy fear. Defy gravity.
What are your thoughts on Wicked on its 10th birthday?