The musical The New York Times called “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” traveled to the Durham Performing Arts Center. Wicked, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, premiered at the DPAC January 7; showings concluded January 25.
I attended a matinee showing of Wicked on January 10. I was very impressed with the ability of the singers to reach and hold notes. I had never seen or read Wicked prior to the show but had heard many of the songs.
The set and technical aspects of Wicked were detailed. The lighting was done well, creating tone to help tell the story. Light fled the stage except for flashing red light during the most intense scenes. The stage itself seemed small, however the space was efficiently used. The props moved on and off stage smoothly, making it seem almost like a movie.
Telling the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, before she became ‘wicked’ was the intent of the musical. However, Wicked offered several abstract looks at our society.
Wicked has more to it than just an average plot with a happy ending. Elphaba was instantly an outcast because of her bright green skin. When she arrived at her new school, no one would talk to or even look at her. The way her classmates responded said society treats someone who looks different as less of a person, someone not worth listening to, but even the oddest outcast ends up making a friend. Elphaba becomes close with the character who had treated her the worst. Her unlikely friend is soon able to see the good in her, barely noticing her green pigment. This is a theme found in many stories–people will treat others differently based on their exterior, while some become accustomed to looking past appearance.
A less obvious theme in Wicked was the role the Wizard played. Animals living in Oz (the world from Wicked and The Wizard of Oz) began disappearing and losing their voice in society. Elphaba’s motivation to meet the Wizard was to tell him about the animals. Of course, the Wizard already knew there was a problem. The Wizard, who acts as the leader of Oz, is believed to be all-powerful and magic. The Wizard is instead all smoke and mirrors, faking his magical powers. I interpreted this as a call out to government based on dictatorship. A few other themes can be found throughout, but that would spoil the story of Wicked.
I do love a good musical, so maybe I’m somewhat biased towards them, but I strongly suggest taking advantage of the performances shown so close to home at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Watching a Broadway play or musical is something I believe everyone should experience. The complexity of the set and talent actors bring to the stage is even more impressive when it’s happening right in front of you, rather than when watched on a screen. However, what you take away from the play or musical is the most important part of your experience.