Wicked's Elphaba Is To This Schmutzie What Dorothy Is To Gay Men

Broadway Across Canada Media InviteJust before I went to BlogHer '11 in San Diego, Broadway Across Canada offered me a couple of tickets to go see Wicked in Saskatoon on August 11th. Would you believe that the last musical I saw just might have been a 1990s high school production of Oklahoma in which my father played a heavy-footed farmer? As soon as I received the invitation, I realized what a cultural troglodyte I was, and so I, of course, had to say yes.

My parents live up in Saskatoon, so I invited my mother along to the performance. As you can see, we both have this problem of looking half asleep, drunk, or crazy in photographs, so I just thought I would include all three attempts at taking our photo and let you piece our various parts together to imagine us as the wide awake, sober, and merely happy individuals that we were on August 11th:

mom and I at Wicked

I'll be honest. The reason I haven't been to a musical in so many years is that I am generally annoyed by them. When everyone breaks into song, I want them to shut up and get-the-hell-on-with-the-story-already-sweet-jeebus. Glee? Shut your overly produced yawps and get on with the character and storyline development already. Grease? Get a life, people, and eat a sandwich. Wicked, though? I LOVED WICKED, and I'm not just whistling Dixie.

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Wicked is both the back and side story to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It follows the relationship between Glinda (played by Natalie Daradich) and Elphaba (played by Anne Brummel), who start out as diametrically opposed classmates whose lives grow into an intimately intertwined friendship as they mature and are later falsely labelled by the citizenry of Oz as Glinda the good and Elphaba the wicked.

I haven't read Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years), the novel upon which the Broadway musical is based, but I think I'll have to pick up a copy, because Elphaba is to this Schmutzie now what Dorothy is to gay men.

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The overarching message that stuck with me is that you can't judge books by their covers. Each of the characters was both an idealist and a pragmatist, good and bad, faulted and brilliant. Glinda suffered from a gross sense of entitlement, but she had a big heart and a sense of civic duty, and Elphaba had low self-esteem and was socially awkward, but she was constitutionally unable not to stand up for what she saw was right. Despite the strengths of both characters, they each feel victim to the oversimplified and extreme labels that the citizens of Oz placed upon them and had to struggle to be true to themselves and to the issues they held dear.

My crush on Elphaba started with Act I's "No One Mourns the Wicked", and I was pretty much a panties-throwing, blushing, fully girl-crushed fan by the end of the performance, without the panties-throwing, of course. I was with my mother, after all.

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Wicked has won me over. The incredible voices of Natalie Daradich and Anne Brummel coupled with an engaging storyline, seriously breathtaking light production, and a rich, industrial-flavoured set, brought me out of my troglodytism and into the wicked world of Broadway musicals.

There is a reason that Wicked's North American and international companies have cumulatively grossed over $2.2 billion and have been seen by nearly 28 million people worldwide, and that reason is that the show is more than well worth the ticket price. It is a story that underscores the truth that our individual relationships matter more than the court of popular opinion and that popular opinion is rarely a reflection of the depth, complexity, and courage we each possess as individuals.

In a world where our stories and politics seem to fall more and more to the extreme lefts and rights of the issues, Wicked is a thoughtful center, and, frankly, it made me feel a little more hopeful for our continued ability to embrace diversity and love our fellow human beings with an understanding our public stories often do not admit.


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