When you think of Broadway, “Wicked” is an iconic musical that comes to mind. Originally starring Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, this show has become one of the most successful musicals in the industry. Earning over one billion dollars in revenue and running on Broadway for ten years, “Wicked” has shattered records and remains a classic Broadway musical.
This Dec. 6, “Wicked” is coming back to Chicago on its national tour. The performances at Oriental Theater are limited to less than two months.
Essentially the untold tale of the Wicked Witch of the West, the show’s story begins at the end of the classic movie and book, “Wizard of Oz.” The Munchkins are celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch. Glinda the Good descends from a magical bubble to explain that a small farm girl from Kansas had melted the Wicked Witch.
Glinda, originally played by Kristin Chenoweth, looks like a fairy princess, similar to the movie and her shimmering gown leaves audiences in awe. One of the Munchkins asks if her and the Wicked Witch were friends, and immediately we get a glimpse of the Wicked Witch’s past.
From the beginning, the Wicked Witch was hated by her father for her abnormal green hue and odd magical powers. We learn the the Wicked Witch once had an actual name, Elphaba and also a younger sister Nessarose. The two sisters were close and attended the prestigious Shiz University together. At the University, Elphaba accidently reveals her powers, catching the attention of the headmaster.
Elphaba and Glinda, who was known as Galinda at the time, were assigned roommates and in the beginning, loathed each other with a passion. Another student on campus, Fiyero charms the entire school and throws a dance for his classmates. When Galinda helps Nessarose find a date for the dance, Elphaba decides to give her roommate a chance, allowing her to help Elphaba with her appearance, and Galinda gives the Wicked Witch her famous pointed black hat. Over time, the two become best friends and Galinda gives Elphaba a full makeover, but still accepting her and her green skin.
Galinda meets the host of the party, Fiyero the Winkie prince and they both seem to have figured out how to manipulate others and get what they want, so it only seems natural that they fall in love.
Fiyero’s stress-free attitude shifts over time, as he reveals his less shallow side to Elphaba. She begins to fall in love, but won’t admit it due to her loyalty to Galinda. This love triangle keeps audiences interested, and you can’t help but pity Elphaba in “I’m Not that Girl,” when she yearns for Fiyero, but she knows that he loves Galinda.
Each costume is intricate and clearly detailed. From Galinda’s numerous frilly outfits to Elphaba’s plain blue suit and sensible work boots, each costume gives the character meaning. The land of Oz has depth and color, and the costumes and set reflect that. In the musical number, “One Short Day,” Elphaba and Glinda visit the Emerald City, where they find where they belong. The ensemble’s are bold and eccentric, almost a steampunk style.
The special effects are extremely intricate and create varying tones through different scenes. Every device in the Broadway show was handmade, from Elphaba’s broom to Glinda’s bubble. The sets are just as detailed, with dear old Shiz and the dazzling Emerald City.
A continuing theme throughout the story is the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. Even after becoming the Wicked Witch, Glinda still values their friendship and defends her wickedness to the munchkins. The two have an unbreakable bond, like a “stream that meets a boulder, halfway through the wood.” The duo is iconic, with the cynically green witch and ditzy blonde optimist are hard to detest.
Although, the audience grows to hate the seemingly “wonderful” wizard of Oz, as it’s revealed that, spoiler alert, he manipulated Elphaba for her powers. When things don’t go his way, he tries to justify his actions and convince Elphaba to fix his problems.
One of the most popular songs from the show, “Defying Gravity” is well known for the amount of belting a singer has to achieve in order to perform the song. It’s the climax of the show, as Elphaba breaks free from the rules and her character shifts from the eager pupil to the misunderstood rebel. Audiences are left in awe as Elphaba live up to her promise of literally defying gravity.
There are small details throughout the story that fit into “The Wizard of Oz.” This musical is basically a prologue to the novel and movie and there are hints that match the original story, but you have to figure it out like a puzzle. Not only is the backstory of the witches of Oz revealed, but other classic characters have dark pasts. The reason why the Cowardly Lion is so easily frightened is blamed on Elphaba and why the Scarecrow, a main character in “Wicked”, is “brainless”.
Audiences leave with a deeper understanding of a classic storybook villain and they learn that there’s a reason behind every action. “Wicked” is an iconic Broadway musical and it has changed many lives for the better.