It was a horrible nightmare. Freedom of speech was curtailed. National leaders iconized and demonized in the winks of eyes. History was treated as flexibly as a fairy tale or a make-believe Sunday matinee. I watched in terror as sweet hoi polloi exploded into a fire-burning pitchforkwielding lynch-mob ready to shred the very same being they had wooed just moments ago.
Meanwhile, those who would speak out have been locked up. The military has been beefed up. And the rest of you had better shut up!
It truly makes the heart and stomach plunge to witness from a comfortably velvetized balcony just how US people … oops, I mean OZ people … were manipulated by the sham wizard. “The people need an enemy” he explains.
And so he and his complicitous media hack turn reality into a twister, obscuring the truth and downright lying about the guilt of those currently filling the glittery shoes of leadership.
How far can this go? How long can this metaphor, this nightmare, continue? Clearly, nobody is encouraged or taught how to think in this world. The few who refuse to go along nicely are either corrupted or destroyed.
And what about you, reader? Do you think? Are you thinking that this is no longer a theatre review and has become a political editorial? Perhaps that is because Oz, Baum and especially the Wizard have always been vehicles for sociopolitical commentary. Novelist Gregory Maguire and playwrights Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman were stepping into rich and dangerous territory when they braved the likes of Dorothy, Boq and the other denizens of Gilliken, Winkie and Quadlinglands.
What’s that? The stage show doesn’t match the movie? Or the books? Or even the novel **Wicked,** upon which it is based? Don’t worry. None of it is really true! It’s all merely pop fiction. And even it weren’t just a uniquely American fantasy metaphor, who decides Witch history is the correct one? Ding Dong!
Regarding Elphaba of the West, the baddest bitch of the silver age screen, well, we are told the secret story of her hideous birth, emerald florescence and enviable end. Forget the “official” version and leave your childhood beliefs behind. We are let in on the true story, if truth really
exists. Wicked suggests, and I agree, that truth is malleable and entirely subjective. Given only a few, spectacularly-lit-yetflimsy gowns of evidence, the smallest fear can billow into a beautiful banshee, filling the stage with amorphous black evil, diaphanous and eerie, truly Defying Gravity and sanity.
The real terror in this world is when people buy into the idea of 100% good or 100% evil. When there is no room for gray (or green), decisions can be hasty and deceptively clear. But in fact, says Wicked, clarity is just another malleable tool, used by the media/reality wizards. Is that so
surprising? Your own Mom probably used the line “Because I said so” to instantly and irrevocably shape your reality with mere verboserocity. Just put on your green glasses and play nicelike … or else!
The language used by these Ozites, especially Goofalinda and Madame Morrible, is delightable and quirkacious, and entirely Baumian; contemporary-ish to the Bowery Boys and certainly a welcome delight when so much theatre seems to go for guttural grit over mental grist.
The costumes in this production were obsessively superb, honoring the cinematic and literarily established flavor of Oz garb — a sort of baroque anything goes formality — and the men dancing in dresses almost make up for the lackluster score. Perhaps if the chorus were more goodly elocuted and audibillable over the underwhelming orchestration they would stand out better. Or maybe the tunification was a bit unispirable. Oh sure, it was all Wonderful (and yes, I cried at the end, ok?) but the real strength of this particular production was not musical. It was verbal and philosophical.
Stephanie J. Block is a splendid icky-witch, instantly endearing us all to the Scourge of Munchkinland. Margaret Hamilton would no doubt be delighted that her character has been repainted as an odd beauty with a honorable soul and the “hottest” of boyfriends, would-be Winkie King Sebastian Arcelus. Perfect Kendra Kassebaum no doubt fabulously glistens even out of costume, and somehow outrageously lampoons Glinda the Good without actually destroying the fragile eggshell of confidence and security that we remember so well from Billy Burke’s twittering blip. One thing is for sure, after this, watching Judy’s slippered sachet down the golden lane will never be the same.
Which witch are you with? Wicked asks: when you to look into the mirror do you find the protector of free speech with a beryl pallor, or do you see the bubble-wrapped fuchsia bimbo of Popular-ity? Doors open, doors close, people change and make decisions that may or may not be good. It just depends on how you look at it. Life and love are complex, and you are in big bad trouble if you don’t try to see things from many different points of view.
There’s also this curious Miss Piggy/Kermit lesbian love undercurrent that runs through the musical production of Wicked. The sweetest ballad by far is “For Good” sung not between hetero love interests but by Gay-Linda and the Wicked One herself, proving beyond dispute that pink and green are complimentary polarities just as black/white, good/evil, truth/whatever.
Wicked exonerates Elphaba, sort of. In the end she becomes obsessed with power and those fabulous shoes.
More importantly Wicked also implicates Galinda, and her gaggle of ignoramus sycophants, Dancing Through Life and willingly accepting pablum, coverups and happy untruths as the price of “party-on” simplicity. Could they have it any other way?
It is a fabulous, exotic and terrifying dream to be stuck in. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dodo, and if only I could just wake up with Dorothy, everything would be Wonderful.