To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve always been a Wicked non-believer. When it comes to musicals, I’m pretty much old-school. I was weaned on the Andrew Lloyd Webber era classics. My favorite musicals can pretty much date me: Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Evita, Cats, Chicago, Oliver!, etc. Even the recent fan faves like Le Miz, Ms. Saigon, Rent and Phantom were musicals that I never really got into. So when Wicked started making a lot of buzz, Delle was deathly curious. It eventually became her dream to watch it on Broadway, and eventually she did. When she came back home, she was armed with a CD of the original cast recording and she wouldn’t let me be. She’d make me listen to Defying Gravity and Popular and Loathing. Like I said, I like the sung through type of songs, so I don’t like songs that is sung, then spoken, then sung. So I never really got into the songs (to Delle’s dismay, I suspect). So I never caught the Wicked bug like Delle did. And everytime she’d reference the musical on the show, so many other fans would be swooning at the mere mention of the play. Again, to my complete befuddlement.
Fast forward to last weekend. When I was in Singapore last December for the Sony event, I saw that Wicked was showing until February of this year. So I vowed to come back and finally watch it before the run ends. When we found a common free weekend, we opted to buy tickets to the play and the plane, and booked a hotel for the weekend. Having seen Cats and Stomp last year, I was in the mood for a musical, despite it being far from the top of my list. Getting to the theatre in Marina Bay Sands was like an episode of the Amazing Race. The plane was scheduled to land at 5pm, with the show starting at 7:30, which gives us 2 1/2 hours to get there. But the plane was delayed 2 hours, which left us with a measly 30 minutes to get from the plane, through customs, then get a taxi to Marina Bay Sands. Despite the odds, we made it to the show with less than 5 minutes before the show started.
What happened next, was pure theatre magic. Despite not really liking the songs, hearing them in the context of the story, sung live by incredibly talented performers, the music simply came alive. Even the songs on the CD that I’d usually skip over, I suddenly found gripping. The sheer genius of what the story tried to do, of how the hero and the villain roles are arbitrarily assigned by the victors, is mind-bogglingly enchanting. The Wicked Witch of the West, portrayed as a victim of circumstances, a tragic hero of Shakespearean proportion, think Harry Potter in Oz, as brilliantly executed by Jemma Rix, was impossible to NOT root for. I was expecting to be disappointed, I mean, how can you live up to Idina Menzel? But Jemma Rix lived up to every nuance, every note that the character Elphaba required. Defying Gravity had me in a puddle of tears and goosebumps by the time she hit the final notes. Amazing. Suzie Mathers as the Rachel Berry-ish Galinda was equally spot-on. She was the annoying over-achiever that you just loved to hate. Despite her being the “bad guy”, you felt for her. Therein lies the skill with which Suzie brought Galinda to life. Without the callow Galinda, we wouldn’t have the tortured genius of Elphaba. These two were the backbones of the show. I cannot even begin to describe how good they were.
By the end of the show, I was a CONVERT, I was a FAN. It’s a theme close to my heart. I love Wicked for the same reason why I love Harry Potter. It’s the story of the undiscovered, the misunderstood, the unloved. It’s the primal theme of being judged for what you are on the outside, as opposed to being appreciated for the unexplored beauty inside. It’s the story of being judged unfairly by history. Everyone knew Elphaba as the wicked witch, while the musical revealed the untold tale that was the complete opposite of history’s verdict. Didn’t we all know those moments where we felt unfairly judged? When we felt looked over? When we felt invisible? When we felt unfairly and undeservedly unloved? The show struck all the right notes and strummed the right emotional strings. It left me gasping for more. One of the cornerstone tunes said it best: “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good.” Watch it if you can, wherever you can. This play just won itself a special place in my heart.