My friend and I went to go see the second to last showing of the popular, surrealistic musical Wicked on September 4th, 2010 in San Francisco at the Orpheum Theater. The production is generally a success on its own terms; however, I don’t think it is as flawless as everyone seems to think it is.
The productions starts at the end of the plot which is a bit dramatic, goes back in time and continues to move forward until it, once again, reaches that dramatic ending. In essence, the production completes a circle which works because showing the audience the ending first grabs their attention immediately after the show begins and makes them wonder what events must have occurred in order for the characters to end up in their current situation. It also works because it’s clear that only part of the ending is revealed in the beginning of the show which still leaves some surprises in store for the audience and gives them something to look forward to–finding out the rest of the ending.
Choreography was definitely a significant element in Wicked. I found that it contributed to the story a lot by allowing the audience to actually see the emotions that the characters are feeling in the form of movement, or more specifically, dance. Choreography was especially helpful when trying to figure out what the characters in the ensembles were feeling because, first of all, they were the people doing most of the dancing so one could get a lot of information out of their movements and, secondly, there aren’t that many other opportunities or ways for them to tell the audience how they are feeling.
Without the choreography in Wicked, the audience would only have a good understanding of how the main characters feel which would prevent them from getting different view points on what was happening. There are a few times when the choreography doesn’t really work and those are when the cast uses props in their dance numbers. I noticed that the props used in the dance numbers don’t really contribute to the story, they are just there for aesthetic or entertainment value, which is fine, except for when they get distracting and take away from the dance number. An example of this would be in “Dancing Through Life” when I kept getting mesmerized by the books the ensemble were moving around instead of appreciating the whole scene.
Something that contributes to the production even more than the choreography are the songs that are sung throughout the musical. Through the songs, the audience is given a more detailed description of the characters and the characters’ situations and emotions in a different way other than lines, captivating the audience one again and giving them the opportunity to relate to the characters. This is one aspect of the musical that works really well because it is a way for the show to hold the audiences’ attention and relay information to them.
Having music especially works when the show was trying tell the audience something and get them to feel a certain way at the same time. However, much like the choreography aspect of the show, there were times when having music didn’t work. Some of the messages that the songs gave were powerful, but they might’ve been stronger if the director had chosen to have the message of the song spoken instead of sung. I really noticed this in the song “No One Mourns the Wicked”.
The costume choice were another thing that grabbed the audiences’ attention because the costumes, even when they weren’t always the most glamorous looking, were out there. They work because they are very imaginative, contributing to the surrealism of Wicked. They also work because they are a reflection of the characters’ personalities and; therefore, provide the audience with character information. For example, Glinda is generally dressed really brightly and extravagantly representing her bubbly and extravagant personality; meanwhile, Elphaba is normally seen in dark, simple clothing portraying the fact that she is a misunderstood, unhappy, simply being.
The theme of good versus evil was prominent in the popular musical. Juxtaposition is used a lot to portray this especially when the theme is applied to the two main characters–a “good” and “bad” witch. This worked for a couple of reasons. One of which is that the audience was observing more than one personality type, which were both taken to extremes, at the same time. This allowed them to really get both sides of the story, to be cliche, instead of just seeing the characters’ world from one person’s point of view.
The way the director chose to introduce the theme of good triumphing over evil also works. At the beginning of the production it’s clear that being “good” does have some advantages over being “evil”; however, as the musical progresses it becomes even more clear that good triumphing over evil may not always be what it seems to be. Portraying such a strong message in this manner works because, at first, it shows the audience what they already know and what they feel comfortable and then slowly it introduces them to a new idea making it less likely that they will reject the idea being proposed to them.
Wicked has certain aspects that work together to make it a success, such as it’s choreography, props, soundtrack, themes, and costumes. Although, not every one of those aspects has a completely positive impact on the musical which makes it hard for me to refer to Wicked as a complete and total success.