"I don't cause commotions, I am one."

Last week, I was lucky enough to fulfill a four-years-in-the-making dream of mine: to see Wicked on stage. I'd bought my ticket to celebrate third-year survival and spent an unhealthy portion of the summer in sheer anticipation. I talked about it constantly; I forced myself to stop listening to the soundtrack so that I wouldn't get jaded with the songs by the time July 27th rolled around; I even passed up an amazing essay topic for my music class because it would require me to wiki Wicked's plot and spoil the ending for myself. You'd think I was setting myself up for disappointment with all these preparations, but the show took every expectation I had and blew it out of the water. I couldn't have imagined a more tightly choreographed, visually stunning, or musically rich production.

I was particularly blown away by the sets, with their odd little combinations of steampunk aesthetics, Victorian flourishes, neon-bright NYC streets, and old-fashioned fairytale charm. One thing that took me by surprise was how bright the stage was. This hadn't come across on the, uh, surreptitious Act I videos that I'd watched on YouTube, but when I was sitting there in the fifth row, my face was completely lit up by the on-stage lights… it was like watching a fireworks show—lavish and effervescent and fanciful. But the production had a quieter side too, a gravity and tragedy that drew me in so that I genuinely forgot to breathe at times. The suspense, humour, and rockin' musicdidn't hurt either. Every song was perfectly tailored the characters' quirks and personalities—sometimes peppy, sometimes wistful, always lushly orchestrated. Listen to the Finale and tell me if it doesn't tear your heart into little shreds (don't worry; it won't spoil anything... though the comments might).

One of the show's main themes is that things aren't always as they seem, and the characters are appropriately complex. It came as no surprise to me that I identified with Elphaba—studious, unpopular, painfully conspicuous, socially awkward... an idealistic girl with a heart for the oppressed and a knack for turning good intentions into lifelong regrets. I get her appetite for acclaim and how that grates against her personal integrity (only difference is, she ultimately chooses the latter and I often don't). But I definitely didn't expect to sympathize with Glinda. Turns out, she and I share an unfortunate tendency of trying to fix everything, control everything, and impress everyone, all while letting down the people we ought to cherish most. Thank Goodness haunted me for days. It reminded me of my own mixed feelings when I'd looked at my grades earlier this year: perfect rows of A's (who wouldn't be happier?) that had come at a cost.

After the show, I went on a Wicked blog-reading binge, and every post I found seemed to have taken something different from from the show. For some, it was about friendship and accepting differences. Others saw it as an exposition on the nature of good and evil, or as a metaphor for political oppression. For my part, I was most struck by the show's idea of legacy—how people pass through your life for a season; how, sometimes, you hurt them and don't have a chance to live out a happily-ever-after friendship in recompense; how you might have no way to say "sorry" or "thank you" except to be changed by the person and carry on their life through your own. I also loved the way the show approached the topic of humility. One blogger pointed out:

Elphaba is powerful and independent, and she could have been a Nietzchean Superman and rule over the pathetic rest of Oz. Instead, her friendship with [other characters] raises them to her level of moral authority and healthy autonomy as they also learn to use their social influence and magical power to serve rather than to force life to serve their convenience.

There's nothing preachy about Wicked, but it does make you wonder how you'd react if you were vilified for taking a stand against injustice—and had the opportunity to trade it all in for power and acclaim in a second. With all of these ideas spinning in my head, I was in sort of a daze after the show. The after-excitement kept me awake till 4 a.m., and the next day, I bought my very reluctant dad a ticket because I couldn't bear having no one to share the experience with or quote dialogue snippets to for the rest of the summer. Dad left the theatre completely won over (I'll admit I did rub it in), and for the rest of the week, I spent way too much time singing the songs, reading up on fun Wicked facts (like how Elphaba conducts the orchestra with her broomstick), and (sadly) photoshopping my face green.

elphie2

Oh, admit it, you'd do that too...

This has been the messiest post ever, but Wicked was so chock-full of food for thought that I can't collect my impressions into anything coherent just yet. I must give a shoutout to Christine Dwyer, the pure-voiced, passionate, and endearing Elphie, and to Jeanna De Waal's loveable, hilarious, and at times heartbreaking portrayal of Glinda (big kudos to both of them for making me laugh at jokes I'd heard a hundred times in the YouTube videos). The rest of the cast were amazing as well; Billy Tighe was the charmingest of Fiyeros, and the ensemble injected loads of funny little details into their choreography (and one of the singers seemed to be looking directly at me during the first song. I know that, with the stage lights, he probably didn't see me at all, but it was still pretty fun). I was worried that sitting near the stage would cause me to miss a lot of the action, but aside from having to crane my neck just a little during Defying Gravity (and a lot to see the dragon), there weren't any downsides: I loved being able to see the little nuances in the acting—the little breaths, the trembles, the glinting teeth and twinkling eyes. And I was close enough that a big glob of streamers fell into my row, which, naturally, I picked up, brought home, and stored in a very apropos bubble-shaped container for posterity.

wickedstreamers

Only souvenir I brought home. Well, that and the memories.

Have you seen the show? If so, what did you take away from it? If not, what's your favourite musical?

Wicked set image source. Disclosure: the Wicked soundtrack link is monetized... I have to fund these tickets somehow, don't I? ;)

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I'm Oksana—Communication major, shutterbug, occasional blogger, incessant doodler, graphic design geek, and writer of sentimental prose. I am quite content to spend an afternoon with a pencil, a few blank Moleskine pages, and a playlist of indie folk. I love musical theatre, black-&-white movies, and Eastern European illustration. Conversations with strangers make my day. When it rains, I make a beeline for my mug of green tea and stack of 19th-century fiction. I'm vegetarian about 98% of the time. I'm extremely awkward and rather nerdy. I love the sea. My name means 'hosanna' and I'm having the time of my life living to praise the One who set me free.

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