One of the lingering questions we all ask is about the origin of evil in the world and in our own lives. Our Catholic Christian faith teaches us that evil is not God's will, nor can it be. God cannot create something that is inherently wicked or evil. One would think that the right place to reflect on such lofty thoughts is a church, a faculty of theology, a quiet retreat house, a monastic library, or a quiet place filled with holy images and angelic music, and certainly not the likes of a Broadway theatre in Manhattan or even the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto’s Theatre District.
WICKED, the Broadway sensation, is a witty and imaginative “prequel” to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and is highly effective because it offers something that many musicals have not been able to do: it appeals wildly to young people but can be taken very seriously by adults. It makes people think about such important themes as the origin and meaning of evil, the possibility of redemption for bad people, the gift of friendship, the nature and long-lasting effects of family strife and tragedy, and the power of forgiveness.
Based on Gregory Maguire's best-selling novel of the same name,WICKED features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (of Godspell and Pippin fame). It tells the story of two women: the clever, green-skinned Elphaba and the beautiful, ambitious Glinda. How did one become the Wicked Witch of the West and the other the Good Witch of the North? This musical explores one possibility. But it does more than take our understanding of the world of Oz and turn it on its head. It makes us examine our understanding of good and evil, and criticizes a society that conflates appearance and reality.
Between its clever storytelling and its thrilling musical score, WICKED is wildly entertaining. And it will definitely make you think twice before calling someone good and the other person evil!
At the end of Act II, Glinda and Elphaba create a “religious” moment on stage and summarize beautifully much of the human struggle to make sense out of bad things that befall good people and the human quest for authentic friends. Their magnificent duet, “For Good,” sums up their friendship as they are seeing each other for the last time. Although it begins as an altercation, in the end they come to see each other with gratitude and learn to forgive one another.
I haven't been able to get Glinda's words out of my head since the first time I saw the musical in New York City back in 2006:
“I've heard it saidThat people come into our livesFor a reasonBringing something we must learnAnd we are ledTo those who help us most to growIf we let themAnd we help them in returnWell I don't know if I believe that's trueBut I know I'm who I am todayBecause I knew youLike a comet pulled from orbitAs it passes a sunLike a stream that meets a boulderHalfway through the woodWho can sayIf I've been changed for the better?But because I knew youI have been changedFor good.”
The duet reaches its apex when Elphaba sings:
“And just to clear the air, I ask forgivenessfor the things I've done you blame me for,”
to which Glinda replies:
“But then, I guess we know there's blame to share,and none of it seems to matter anymore.”
Both have been changed for good!
WICKED, returning for a Toronto run from June 20 to August 5 is wonderful, and not a bad way to think about some of the things that really matter! You, too, might be changed for good after seeing it.
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