A ‘Wicked’ experience

A Wicked experience

Sophia Steenburg, Editor

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching the groundbreaking musical Wicked. This is a musical that reveals the Wicked Witch of the West’s origin story and features little details about the characters we have all grown to know and love from The Wizard of Oz. This musical is based on the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and was written by playwright Winnie Holzman. Wicked had its debut back in 2003 and has been going strong ever since.

When I was younger, I always heard of friends and family going to see Wicked on Broadway. And yet, as cool as it seemed, it never truly spiked my interest. I had seen The Wizard of Oz multiple times and just didn’t think I would want to sit through such a long play. Its run time is more than two hours. But as I began to mature and really discover what my interests were, musical theater began to really interest me. I became enthralled by musicals and the stories their songs had the ability to tell and Wicked is one of the best I have seen.

I can genuinely say that watching this performance was almost magical. Obviously, it was well produced but every little detail amazed me. The orchestra played beautifully, the set was so detailed with every prop on stage (no matter how big or small), and the actors seemed to be talented in every sense of the word.

Elphaba, the wicked witch, is typically played by Lissa deGuzman, but this show was played by her standby, Natalia Vivino. I feel like there is a common misconception that standbys and understudies are not even comparable to the main actor of a role, but if I had not read that Vivino was simply Elphaba’s standby, I would have never guessed it. There were no flaws in her voice and she portrayed strong emotions so powerfully.  

SPOLIER ALERT: I will discuss information that gives away important plot points. If you have not seen the play, or read the book, proceed with caution.

It has been almost two months since I saw this musical, and for some odd reason I am still bringing it up in nearly every conversation. As I continue I will be noting my favorite moments, songs, and characters. It is honestly hard to narrow down my list of favorites because I truly loved every aspect of this musical.

I am so impressed by the number of characters in Wicked that I knew from The Wizard of Oz. It is fun to learn their origin stories. I got to see Elphaba and her family life, including the love she has for her younger sister, Nessarose, as well as how Elphaba and Glinda met and were actually friends.

Towards the beginning of the show, the audience learns how Elphaba was sent to Shiz University alongside her sister, for the sole purpose of taking care of her and ensuring that she is safe and being looked after. Although her dad is really seems to dislike Elphaba and expects her to take care of her younger sister, you can tell that watching after Nessarose is something that she truly wants to be doing. 

The basis of the story is that Elphaba is born green and her parents become so terrified that their next child will turn out green as well so her father makes his wife consume a lot of some plant to try and prevent this from happening once again. Due to this great consumption, the mother dies during childbirth and Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose, is born without the ability to walk.

We learn that the father resents Elphaba and blames her for her mother’s death and sister’s disability. When Nessarose is sent to Shiz University, Elphaba comes along to watch over her. At the university, everyone is scared of her and either laughs or cringes when she comes walking by. She confides in one of the history teachers who is an animal. He tells stories of how people of all shapes and sizes and animals used to attend school together, but as time went by, more and more animals began to disappear and are now losing their ability to speak. One day her professor begins to forget how to speak and ends up resigning and being taken away. This leads Elphaba to go on a hunt for justice and this is where the story begins to unfold.

If there is one thing I really admire about musicals and plays, it is the storytelling. I love to see how different characters are portrayed and what inspires their actions. That is what makes Wicked so special. We get to see old characters given new stories and a fresh point of view. I could tell that every actor thoroughly studied their characters and knew them as if they were simply being themselves.

I recently watched a YouTube video on how actress Charithra Chandran prepared for her role of Edwina Sharma in season two of Bridgerton by writing down different situations and then acting out how she thought her character would respond to each of them. This is a method that can prove incredibly helpful to actors trying to get into character, and can be used to make one into what I believe to be  a genuinely good actor. 

I don’t have an amazing singing voice so I really don’t have a lot of room to discuss the cast’s singing performances, but one thing I can do is talk about what I think made up a good song in this musical.

Something I noticed was the use of chimes or bells of some sort by the orchestra, which gave certain songs a sort of airy feel, making it all seem like a beautiful fantasy. You can hear these chimes/bells a lot when Glinda sings, and is most likely to reflect the light and innocent feel she has surrounding her. I

love a good ballad, so when Elphaba and Glinda sang “For Good” towards the end of the play, I felt my heart melt a little. The song began with the two singing separately, but saying similar things. It then continued to progress into the two singing together in a full-blown duet complete with perfect harmonies. I felt that this song reflected their relationship in some ways, whether it be my own interpretation or it was truly meant to do so.

The audience sees them start off as two separate people who slowly join forces no matter how different they are. Elphaba sang most of the harmonies while Glinda typically sang the melody. I believe that this shows how Glinda was the “normal” girl throughout the play who did what everyone else did. On the other hand, Elphaba was always doing her own thing and being viewed as different. They are two different people and parts, but when they are put together, they make something beautiful. In the song, they create a magical and strong harmony, while in their lives they create a firm friendship built off of their true selves. 

During the play, you get the chance to see changes in many characters. Some had redemption arcs while others only got worse, and the redemption arc for Glinda is what truly makes me love her.

In the beginning of he musical, we see her as a snobby, rich girl who cares only for herself, but as the story unfolds we begin to see her heart blossom and care deeply for people other than herself. She turns into a forgiving woman who will do anything for a friend in need. She changes as she gains a friendship with Elphaba at Shiz University (their school).

Although she is a little harsh on the eyes, Elphaba has a large, caring heart and just wants to belong. The fact that Glinda took a chance on getting to know her when everyone else was scared to do the same is a redeeming quality that also serves as a good lesson to the audience. Basically what I’m trying to say is my favorite character is Glinda Upland (of the Upper Uplands). Not only is her character development *chef’s kiss* but her outfits throughout the show were just the cutest. She went from preppy school girl outfits consisting of pastels, to the most amazing gowns truly fit for a princess, complete with all the sparkles and glimmer a girl could ever want. 

Overall, I would give this experience a 1,000,000/10 and definitely recommend it to anyone who is able to attend a show. The national tour left Sacramento on April 24, and I hope that many of you were able to attend. For those who didn’t have that opportunity, I highly recommend trying to purchase tickets whenever you’re able to view the play. The plot keeps you interested throughout the entirety of the play and the music will have you singing and leaping to the soundtrack for months after.