I recently saw Wicked in London. I had read the book several years ago and had been given the soundtrack by a friend. Trying to work out the plot of the musical in relation to the songs was interesting. I realised very quickly that lots had changed from the book, but I was ok with that, as I hadn’t been thrilled with how the book had ended (even though I knew part of it was inevitable, it was how the author handled the inevitable.) At any rate, I really fell in love with the songs and wanted to go see it properly.
I hadn’t been to see a musical in a long time. I used to work in theatre so more often than not I was working the musical rather than seeing it. So, watching it properly was in itself an interesting experience.
The set design was really interesting. It was sort of a frame, with a large mechanical dragon at the top (No, there is no dragon in the play or in Oz at any point in any book, but it looked cool.) Then kind of gears and metal work down the sides with rope lights intertwined. The rest of the sets were generally minimal, but that was ok. It didn’t need to be overly complex, it worked better with the simplicity of the original Oz story.
Now, as soon as the musical started, it was clear that you need to view it as an entirely different entity to the book. It has practically nothing but names in common with the book. It’s one of the more interesting interpretations really. Bear in mind, the book Wicked is an interpretation of a children’s book. The musical is an interpretation of an interpretation, and in some ways comes full circle and becomes more like a fairy tale of the original story.
It has the mixture of the book turning the original Oz world on it’s head and looking at it differently, but it gets rid of the darker side that Gregory Maguire wrote about. It’s also added greater depth to some of the relationships than there ever were in the book.
What I think is the final interesting point is that it is truly a musical reflective of the time it was written in. So many of its themes are about political themes current today. It is, in many ways, an allegory, but a well done allegory. It’s not subtle, but it’s not a hammer to the head either.
I’m not going to give away the plot, because I think everyone should go see it. Yeah, so it’s only in London right now, but if it ever comes your way, go see it. It seems simple on the surface, but look a bit deeper and go down the rabbit hole. Or tornado, whatever.