When reading the playbill, I am struck by the collaborative effort of so many people over such a long period of time to create Wicked. In the first word of his interview composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz credits “we” as being behind the acclaimed work of Wicked. This to me was prophetic. You can tell when an idea is so incredibly well conceived that there is no way it could not be a hit. The mastery in the form of Wicked’s script and songs seamlessly created the concept for the costumes, lighting, and performances. The success of this show was predestined by the caliber of its concept. The script lives. It is incredible, and it is obvious. I am a freshman to theatre, but even I know that the script itself holds all of the magic of this production. Then it is blessed by the production team and actors for our viewing pleasure. Wow…
Glinda, the good witch, was played by one of the understudies Sarah Schenkkan. For the record, I want to see Patti Murin duke it out for her role, because Sarah was phenomenal. The essence of blonde was so well honed and controlled onstage. It is one thing to act like a princess, it is entirely another to be one. Schenkkan gave me every impression that she was worth the ridiculous attention doted upon her, which is a very rare gift for a self-absorbed daddy’s girl.
Dee Roscioli played Elphaba with expert beauty in frumpiness. My compassion was drawn out through her performance, as she and Glinda played themselves as youths with astounding accuracy to young emotion. I might have been the only one to hear this, but Roscioli’s speaking voice sounded eerily familiar to Judy Garland in inflection and presentation; a dense juxtaposition. What a voice though…
Both Roscioli and Schenkkan’s voices were astounding. They had a practiced likeness in timbre that was so spot on, they matched frequency when proximity phase issues on their microphones arose. The unbelievable control of their natural voices kept electronic distortion at bay, or at least made it a whole lot easier for a sound technician to harness. That’s a geek’s way of saying these women have near-perfect pitch.
Cohesion of sets, lights, and costumes was evident. The set itself was built of huge iron frames affixed with moving gears gave a very steampunk likeness to Oz. A huge sound and lighting system was designed inside of the set pieces and blended beautifully. Lighting and tech “pulled-out-all-the-stops” more than I have ever seen in Seattle theatre. Dual projectors assisted in falling rain, silhouettes, and magical elements, while an array of moving-yolk intelligent lights created one of the best effects I have ever seen. Elphaba was literally turned into a green and purple prism as she takes flight in “Defying Gravity” at the end of the Act I. Altogether one of the most moving segments of theatrical production I have ever witnessed.
Whereas the book was dense with subplot, the story on stage focused on the human relationships, save one, between Doctor Dillamond, the goat professor, and Elphaba. The themes of classicism and bigotry were deeply embedded in this part of the story, which served the production very well. Of all the plots to include or remove from the original, the only pieces that felt rushed and underdeveloped were the reemergence of the cowardly lion and the Wizard’s twisty green bottle. These felt like quickly included moments in the plot that were glossed over. I could have used a tiny bit more stage time on those two points for development’s sake.
The theme of the ugly duckling will always have potency as long as our society remains as divided as it is. It is a testament to our general bigotry that a production like this is so popular. What struck me more was the power game unveiled behind the Wizard of Oz. A man, deemed as a “wonderful wizard” by people of a new land, assumed the wonderful wizard role because he could play God. Madame Morrible was a vicious aristocrat who played Glinda and Elphaba against each other to appease her Wizard’s plots. Despite knowing his intentions, Morrible was still enchanted by the power that the Wizard wielded over Oz and her ability to glean from it by association.
Ultimately, Wicked strikes people because we deal with power and judgment nearly every day. Power is a game, and we are born onto the playing board. Whether by will or chance, we find ourselves in the roles being played, and navigating toward positive decisions seems nearly impossible with so much uncontrollable fallout. One eventually realizes they had power the whole time, but never wanted it. This is the tragic and beautiful end that is neither happy nor sad. Strangely, it’s real. This unsettled feeling that bad things will never change despite your own happiness, that the momentum of public opinion is not within your power to sway, and that you should find happiness in escape. Or find happiness within your role, as Glinda did. I don’t want to call that truth, I want to call it a sign of the times.
The power of an individual is far greater than we allow. One voice can make a change, and whatever you believe in can come true. The object then is not to overpower circumstance, but to overcome your own intentions. I believe in you. Thank you for reading.