Wicked: 4 Broadway to Real-Life Lessons
By WestOfY'all on March 19, 2014
Last night my family went to see the touring production of Wicked at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio. If you have never been to the Majestic, it truly is, well, majestic! (Seriously. Check out the photos on their site!) The theatre is housed in a historic brick building in the middle of downtown San Antonio, a marble and glass ticket box greeting guests. Plush red seats hug a proscenium stage nested in faux Spanish facade. Intricately carved arched windows and towers are topped with small ferns. The ceiling is painted a dreamy, rich blue and tiny lights glow through it like stars. The Majestic is a singularly beautiful theatre and attending a production there is a truly unique experience.
And Wicked! Wow! I had never seen it before and have never considered myself a musicals enthusiast (although I did participate in theatre a lot in high school), but this show just might have changed that for me. I don't want to ruin the plot, but the story is great and blends seamlessly with the original Wizard of Oz. The songs - omg! Insane range! Now I get why Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel are considered Broadway goddesses (*perfect casting*)! The staging and lighting effects - incredible! The touring cast (Jennifer DiNoia as Elphaba, Hayley Podschun as Glinda, etc.) was sensational, nailing every note, every peeling laugh. All that being said, Wicked definitely holds some life lessons that we can all relate to and learn from.
- Self-confidence sets us free.
When we are introduced to Elphaba, the only green-skinned inhabitant of Oz, she automatically stands out. Like Kermit says, "it ain't easy being green," and boy can Elphaba relate. Harassed by the kids at school, rejected by her own father, Elphaba has internalized that her differentness is bad. Even after Glinda gives her a hair-flipping frou frou makeover, Elphaba still feels awkward in her own skin. Only once Elphaba begins to confide in Glinda, and get her awkward groove on at the school dance, do we see her begin to embrace her feelings and identify. Elphaba's whole life, her lack of self-confidence has been the root of her pain. Self-confidence does not come with permission. It arrives when we are honest with ourselves about who we are. In the end, Ozian society still doesn't accept Elphaba, but she accepts herself and finds that strength and happiness stem from living life on her own terms.
- Empathy makes us better people.
Unlike Elphaba, Glinda, the most popular schoolgirl at Shiz, is practically bursting with self-confidence. Because of her personality, looks, upbringing, etc., Glinda has always had positive validation that reinforces her belief that she can get whatever she wants in life. Glinda is also used to be being the top dog and enjoys putting down others to maintain her position at the princessy peak of the hierarchy (à la Mean Girls). Glinda's internal good girl vs mean girl battle comes to a head when she intentionally sets out to humiliate Elphaba in front of the entire student body, but instead of feeling joyful watching Elphaba's floundering pain, Glinda is surprised by feelings of guilt that overwhelm her, enough to encourage her to forget about social norms and help someone in need. When we empathize, we mindfully act from our hearts to alleviate another's pain without being dragged down into it. Glinda could not transition from bratty pack leader to bubbly "Glinda the Good" without consciously engaging in empathy.
- Mentors matter.
Throughout Wicked, the mentor/mentee role plays obvious importantance. The first half of the play is set at Shiz, what we can only determine is an upper-crust Harry Potter-style wizardry boarding school. There is Doctor Dillamond, the teacher who also happens to be a talking goat. There is Madame Morrible, the headmistress with the talent of weather manipulation (*wink*). Then of course, there is the mysterious Wonderful Wizard of Oz, known across the land for being a living genius. All of these characters are directly linked to either teaching or motivating Elphaba to learn and use her powers. They are vital to her development as a witch and as a person. While these characters are the obvious mentors, all of the characters actually take turns teaching one another. Glinda helps teach Elphalba about self-acceptance. Elphalba teaches Glinda to care for others. Love triangle instigator Fiyero teaches both Elphalba and Glinda about hope and true love. Even a knife-wielding munchkin teaches us that we should not lie. Learning is an opportunity that all other people have the ability to provide us. When we actively seek out learning opportunities and mentors (in a mutually beneficial way), we are opening doorways to lessons, jobs, relationships, etc., that we may have never come across on our own.
- Perspective is subjective.
At birth, Elphaba is born a shade of green that confuses and disturbs other people for no apparent reason, but because she was an outcast, Elphaba was able to devote time to developing strong ethics and a uniquely magical skill set. Glinda's effervescent yet manipulative nature made her teachers dismiss her scholarly potential, but made her a natural at politics and being an encouraging public leader. Every character in Wicked is portrayed with both strengths and weaknesses. After all, we are only human, no matter our talent for reading ancient spells or hitting those Mariah-esque high notes. We may not be able to control every situation, but we do have the power of choice - to think about life as a destructive, wicked, never-ending mega-twister, OR as a winding yellow brick road full of of obstacles, but always innately magical and always headed toward another magnificent and inspiring Emerald City.
*Image via djandwy.com/Creative Commons