So after watching Wicked for the 49th time last night, I thought it was long overdue to write about why I love the show so much it an attempt to answer the questions I always get asked. Some of what I am talking about can be applied to any musical and/or play for that matter, but we’ll focus on Wicked, because – and when I say the following statement, I am not exaggerating – “Wicked has changed my life”. Kerry Ellis may have said that after her final show, but I don’t care, it’s true for me too. After seeing the show for the first time in 2007, I finally realised that theatre was an actual ‘thing’, up until that point I’d of course seen the yearly pantos and your standard local production of Oliver!, but it wasn’t until then that the light-bulb switched on and it came to my attention the incredible art form live theatre is. So I have Wicked to thank for everything. I wouldn’t be here, living in London, working for a theatre company and having these incredible experiences in all these different theatres. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be without theatre at this point and it’s because of this show that means so much.
I am always met with “But it’s the same show isn’t it? Why would you go that many times”. My answer to this is that yes, at it’s core, it is essentially the same show. But for many reasons, it defiantly isn’t. Anyone who regularly goes to the theatre will understand the beauty of the live experience. One performance is never the same from one night to the next. Seeing the show as frequently as I do – more so now as I live in London I tend to go once a month on average – I always have a unique experience of the show, I’ll focus on a specific element; a cast member, a song, a moment and always take something new away from it.
The main reason I go back time and time again is because of the incredible performers that have been on that stage. It may be in some way all about Elphaba and Glinda, but every company there has been for the past 11 years are always incredibly talented, brilliant and dedicated people. From the ensemble to the Nessarose’s to the Fiyero’s, I am always excited to see someone new perform, or to see someone I’ve seen before in a different role, or an ensemble member go on for a leading role. It completely changes the show, it keeps it fresh and brings a new energy. Take last night for example, it was my first time seeing the new Standby Elphaba Laura Pick (due to the lead Alice Fearn being on holiday). Pick brought something unique to the role, regardless of whether I thought she was better than Fearn or not is subjective, that fact that she was playing Elphaba instead brought a new interpretation of the character to the show and hence made us follow a slightly different journey, Pick’s Elphaba as opposed to Fearn’s. Of course, as with anything, you will have your “favourites,” but not matter who I see and in what role is the main reason I go back again and again, different casting changes it up in a way that fuels my passion for the show.
The story is about subjection, taking a person at face value without fully understanding what they are capable of. This analysis applies for not only Elphaba, but Glinda, The Wizard, and a few other characters in the story. We go on a full journey with these complex characters in a way that I love and can relate to. Taking Elphaba as the main example; she is penalised for her appearance from the youngest age and continues to be throughout her whole life, but she never fully lets her guard down, she is strong-willed and is the kind of person that people take for granted. It presents the situation in which someone is being discriminated against which now, more than ever, has a universal appeal. One of my favourite moments in the show is the ballroom dancing sequence in which Elphaba enters and the students mock and tease her. She doesn’t leave the room, she stays and dances by herself. It’s in this moment that we see the friendship of the two heroines formed. We see Glinda for who she really is, and watch her accept Elphaba in the same way for the very first time. It’s a beautiful, powerful moment for me that hits emotionally every single time without fail. There is no other better feeling than building that personal connection to something that is fictionalised, because you can not only revel in how far you have come as a person, but recognise your individuality and embrace it.
I just straight up love the score of the show. Hearing the amazing orchestra and vocals excites me every time. And the lyrics in this show are very much underrated, there are many moments of multi-meanings within these lyrics, musical motifs to The Wizard of Oz and poignant, relevant statements that can be applied in many different contexts. Its cleverly thought out and never strays from the character intentions in that place in the story. I would be lying if I missed out the fact that Elphaba’s three big songs are the moments I look forward to the most, often I appreciate other moments more, it’s just the excitement I feel as Elphaba flies up into the sky and belts for her life is truly incomparable and always will be.
With every show comes different people (or sometimes the same…there are more crazy fans than just me!) and a different atmosphere. I’ve been to performances in which I’ve had to look around to check the audience had a pulse – and I’m not trying to say that that is necessarily a bad thing – I understand that some people don’t like to whoop and cheer as much as I and many others do, I just feel it’s a more energetic and fun way to spend your time at the show, because every moment, every scene is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never happen again and I find it’s a better experience when everyone is involved and there to love the material, and appreciate and encourage the talent on-stage. That is why my favourite time seeing the show is a cast change, which generally only happens once a year when contracts are up and multiple performers leave the show. That Saturday night performance is always full with the most insane energy, and because of that, everyone on stage goes all out, giving 200% as it is possibly the last time they will get to do so. And when the characters experience that emotion, you can see the cast are too, i.e. a final performance of “For Good” is tear-inducing to say the least, as the characters say goodbye and thank you to each other, the actresses do to. That’s why I love seeing other shows too, if I show I love closes, I will try and make the final performance. If a cast member I have enjoyed seeing for the past two years decides their time with the show is up, I’ll go and support them as they tell their story for the last time. The material and the people bring me back to a show, particularly Wicked, because after all this time it still means so much.
Taking an evening off to Oz is something I will never tire of, and in a few weeks time, December 15th, will not only be my 50th show but exactly ten years since I saw it for the very first time, so that is pretty damn special. So maybe this article has cleared a few things up, or just sounded like complete waffle I’m not sure, but in any case, theatre exists and it will make you good. So we have that.