I was about 10 years old when my vocal teacher brought me the score for Wicked, a production that had just opened in New York.
The musical tells of Oz as it was before Dorothy dropped in, and the colourful characters that lived there. Galinda (who would soon be known as the Good Witch of the North) is perky, spoiled, ambitious and popular. Elphaba (the eventual Wicked Witch of the West) is talented, passionate, and misunderstood. The plot then follows the rise and fall of their relationship as they go from reluctant roommates, to college friends, to political and love-triangle rivals…their destinies intertwining with one another’s.
As an over-dramatic, aspiring musical theatre star at the time (I was ten, cut me some slack), I fell in love with the music, and took to it like a duck to water. Over the years, my sister and I tackled one number at a time, often performing in variety shows or competitions in full costumes with all of the theatrical antics we could muster in tow.
This weekend, I went to see my ever-favourite musical with that same sister by my side. This was not my first time seeing the production, but for some reason, this performance really struck a chord with me.
I sat in the balcony next to Kate, constantly looking over to see if she was mouthing the words like I was. The brass section made my chest rise and fall in anticipation, and I was pushed to the brink of my emotions during several numbers.
Why was this production so enthralling to me? Why, after knowing the story and practicing the songs for a decade, was I still so emotionally affected? Inner dialogue: “THIS IS A FICTIONAL STORY, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH MEEEEEE?!”
(^^^I’m not a romantic by any stretch of the imagination, but I legitimately gush during this scene)
It wasn’t until later that night, upon further reflection, that I realized that musical means more to me than a fun story and some great tunes. I grew up with those characters, those songs; they are all too real to me.
In middle school, I related all too well to Elphaba, a girl with big dreams who lacked the social graces to fit in with her classmates. During her self-love power anthem, Defying Gravity, it took all the strength I could muster to restrain myself from standing up to belt out the final notes. Like the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’, it took a lot of awkwardness, screw-ups, heartbreaks, and setbacks for me to get to a point where I’m determined to be who I am, regardless of the opinions or speculations of others.
Now looking back to when I performed those iconic duets with my sister, those songs were the only things we could agree on at a time when we insisted on being nothing alike. Here she was next to me, spending the weekend with me as a friend, sharing something we both really loved about our childhood.
I also sang For Good for my best friends’ graduation. I stayed back a year before leaving for university, and watching the girls I had grown up with head off on their own adventures without me is one of the most bittersweet moments for me.
So yes: cheesy singing and dancing and costumes and lights and steam-punk-style props really make me nostalgic and reflective. What’s so awesome about it is that I’m rediscovering little bits of who I was and am in a totally different context. The story and message were relevant ten years back and will remain relevant, at least to me, for years to come.
…And because I live in this fantastic city with its hella-rad arts scene, this certainly won’t be the last time I frequent the show.
If you haven’t seen it, get your butt down to the Ed Mirvish theatre to do so…maybe the story will resonate with you like it did me.
With love and showtunes,