Friday, October 22, 2010

#63 - Wicked - or, What Makes a Good Witch?

Every year when I was growing up, The Wizard of Oz would play on television sometime during the winter.  And, each time, my best friend and I would spend the evening at her house watching Dorothy defeat the wicked witch, enving Glinda her fabulous bubble travel, singing along, and generally having a fabulous time.  I remember practicing the special step they used to travel down the yellow brick road until I could do it perfectly.

However, I never was interested in reading more than just the first book (either as a child or later in my life).  I did try them, but never was very enthused about what else happened in Oz.  Oz was about finding friends in unexpected places, good witches that appeared in bubbles, defeating wickedness with a bucket of water, and listening to Judy Garland sing about going over the rainbow.  But - despite the apathy towards what happened after Dorothy left - there was always the nagging question of "Why?".  Why did Glinda help Dorothy?  If the Wicked Witch of the West was so horrible, why hadn't someone already thrown a bucket of water at her?  Why was the bucket there if it was so toxic to her?  Was Oz really so wonderful when it seemed that so many characters there were unhappy?

When Wicked by Gregory Maguire first came out, I expected to find the answers to these questions.  But, again, I just couldn't get into the story ... in fact, I never made it to the part where Elphaba leaves for school and meets Galinda.  This time, my lack of interest in the story had to do with the writing style and the incredible amount of time that Maguire spends on Elphaba's infancy.  Then, Wicked was made into a musical, and I thought it was the perfect way to find out why Elphaba became a bad witch in under three hours.

I saw Wicked as part of my recent London trip (which will be the subject of my next post) at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.  It had some great comic moments, and, yes, those "whys" were answered.  The scene where Galinda gives Elphaba a makeover made me think about some of the friendships that I've had.  The origins of the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow were explained in a logical fashion.

However, the stunning costumes were my favorite part.  The ensemble scenes featured each cast member in a unique costume with interesting shapes - especially effective with some of the lighting design.  The accessories - hats, glasses, even cigarette holders - added to the overall glamour of the design and gave a slightly steampunk flavor to the production that reinforced the clockwork dragon and wizard's mechanical head contraption.  I hear that the US touring companies have equally compelling visual design, so if you like unusual fashion, you might want to see this production for the costuming alone.

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