Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Analysis of a play

I saw Wicked. I know that the cool thing to do in the theater department is to rag on it for its pageantry, but I loved it.

The show is precariously balanced around the plot of the Wizard of Oz. It cleverly balances the differences between the book and the movie, so that it could be a sequel to either one. For example, the slippers that are described as "silver" in the Wizard of Oz the book and "ruby" in the movie version are described as silver and jeweled here, and mention is made of the fact that they change colors in the light.

The lyrics to the song are fun and clever, e.g. "And with an assist from me to be who you'll be, instead of dreary who you were... are... There's nothing that'll stop you from becoming pop-u-ler.... lar!" That cracks me up.

Aside from the music, the script is cheeky and filled with wordplay. We get such accidental neologisms as "scandalacious" (a combination of "scandalous" and "salacious"), and "hideodious" ("hideous" and "odious")peppered throughout the show. It's also amazing to see how the play takes a very familiar story and turns it on its head; the Wizard, Tin Man, and Lion are conspiring in a plot to kill the witch, the Wicked Witch of the East's death is a political assassination, et cetera. Especially during the second act, all of the pieces start to come together to set up the story we all already know.

Aside from the cleverness, however, there is still a great deal of relatability. I loved the contrast of the choices made by the two witches, Glinda and Elphaba. One chooses to stay within the system she knows is corrupt, in order to have greater influence in changing it. The other is too bound by principle to be able to remain inside, and must fight from the outside, eventually becoming a martyr. Anyone who has any political leanings at all or who has fought against something bigger than himself whould be able to see parallels to his own life here. Those who feel like outcasts (and in today's society, who doesn't?) will see themselves in poor green Elphaba's shoes. And the main theme of the story makes us reconsider what we think of as wicked, ugly, and wrong. I found the musical to be an ingenious vehicle for important moral questions. The fact that it comes wrapped in shiny over-the-top musical numbers and visual effects should not detract from the incredible writing of the show.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree!! The line I like is, "Don't be offended my my frank analysis. Think of it as personality dialysis." I loved the show so much I saw it twice. Where did you see it?