Wicked: The Musical

Everyone knows the tale of the wicked witch of the West from the beloved tale of Dorothy — The Wizard of Oz. But how many know the truth? Truth and reality are interesting concepts. Is the truth we understand about Elphaba really the truth? Is the reality we learn from Glinda the Good real? Does Elphaba really see herself as wicked? Does Glinda think she is really good? Or are matters not that black and white — or in this case, green and white?

No One Mourns the Wicked

From this number, one learns about the history of Elphaba’s parents that ultimately led to the ‘greenification’ of her skin. The song begins with the townspeople rejoicing in the death of the Wicked Witch of the West who used to cause terror in their lives. Glinda, the Good Witch, tells the story of the Wicked Witch to see if wickedness is something people possess naturally or something they acquire. Elphaba is a child born out of wedlock who is to carry the burden of her mother’s sin for the rest of her life. Although birth is supposed to be full of joy and happiness, the reactions of disgust, horror, and fear of the people around them immediately establish the sense of otherness or alienation in Elphaba. Being treated like a monster by her father and sister, Elphaba grew up only knowing to see herself as a monster, a despicable being. 

What Is This Feeling?

This song is the first time where two polar characters meet and are forced to come to terms with the fact that they will be roommates for the duration of their college life. Galinda is a public doll, who is loved by everybody. Unlike Elphaba, who has only known to dislike herself, Galinda lived a life of admiration for her looks and her charming personality. When the song begins, and the two characters start expressing their disdain, Galinda says, “There’s been some confusion over rooming here at Shiz, but of course I’ll rise above it!” This positive attitude that she possesses is a product of the way she has been treated by others. Especially with the presence of other students, who keep praising Galinda for her goodness, Galinda naturally places her position above Elphaba, creating a sense of superiority and inferiority between the two roommates.  

Popular

Glinda and Elphaba become friends despite their differences. It is noteworthy that they are complete opposites; they are the first people to express a completely opposite type of “otherness” to one another. Glinda was the first person to accept and befriend Elphaba, while Elphaba was the first person to challenge and dislike Glinda. Such novel sense of otherness surprisingly pulls them together. Thus in the number Popular, Glinda sings how to change Elphaba’s “unprepossessing features” into something beautiful so that she can be popular like herself. “Celebrated heads of states or especially great communicators— did they have brains or knowledge? Don’t make me laugh; they were popular!” As lyrics suggest, Glinda is the epitome of how everything is about the way others view her, instead of what is within. In this number, Glinda once again establishes herself as the characters whose self-consciousness is completely formed reliant on how others see her.

One Short Day

This is the first time that Elphaba feels accepted and at home in her life because the greenness of the Emerald City renders her the norm. The visit to the Emerald City with Glinda, in which they have become friends, truly makes her happy because she learns for the first time that happiness can be shared with another person. This is a milestone for Elphaba because her self-consciousness changes with the flash of hope that ignited in herself. She is now able to accept and believe in herself that she is a capable person who deserves much more than to be hated by others. She is to meet the Wizard of Oz, whom she admires and believes can degreenify her skin. She hopes to work with him to polish her magical powers for the good of the world. However, she finds out that the Wizard is simply a powerless liar who is taking away the ability of the animals to speak. The Wizard asks Elphaba if she is willing to help by working with him and contributing her power. However, Elphaba denies and tries to free the animals from captivity. This is when Madame Morrible, the Press Secretary of Wizard and Elphaba’s former teacher, spreads the rumor to the entire Oz that Elphaba is a wicked witch.

Thank Goodness

This song explains Glinda’s conflicted state of mind. She realizes that her fiancé, Fiyero, does not love her and that he loves Elphaba, whom she betrayed so she can continue to be admired by the public. For all this time, she believed that she had a good nature, and acting in that way would make her happy. However, she becomes conscious of the fact that acting in the manner that people seek from her cannot make her truly happy. In other words, she realizes that she, like Elphaba, is also a product of otherness. Whatever she portrayed herself as in the past were just a reflection of what people wanted out of her and not something that she really was. Despite this knowledge, Glinda still chooses to prioritize public image over her love and friendship. For her, public image is more important than her happiness.

No Good Deed + Defying Gravity

These iconic numbers illustrate the tipping point for Elphaba who has constantly been shunned by others and only understands hatred, disappointment, and fear. Upon losing the two only people who have been on her side — Fieyro and Glinda— she sings that she will give what people ask for: the wicked witch of the West. “No good deed will I do again” sings Elphaba, which shows how she gives into the consciousness that others form for her. These concepts question the intent of terrorism as well; Elphaba decides to be the terror that people keep boxing her into, yet the audience understand that she is not an evil force. This further blurs the lines between good and evil.

For Good

This is the scene where Glinda and Elphaba come to forgive each other and reconcile. Only at this moment the two characters finally acknowledge the fact that they needed each other to grow as a person. Both realize that only by being a pair, the otherness that used to hurt them in the past becomes a positive matter. Elphaba, who only knew how to dislike herself, learned the joy of love through looking at Glinda’s life, whereas Glinda became self-conscious of what is true happiness from experiencing Elphaba’s life together with her. Although it is too late for them to return to the past, they can at least confess that they were changed for the better because they knew each other. Even when they go separate ways, they will forever remember the friend that changed them for good. 

Wicked: The Musical is not just an empty-headed and aesthetically pleasing extravaganza of singers, dancers, and actors. It in fact carries a lot of thought-provoking themes. Both Glinda and Elphaba’s identities are no longer clear-cut as they were before — Glinda is no longer simply good, but nor is she evil, as well as Elphaba. The tale of a different truth in a much more three-dimensional character is effectively portrayed through its means of delivery, music. Wicked is in fact a novel, yet it was not until the musical was on Broadway that the story was made famous. This shows the effectiveness and accessibility of music and its power to deliver the stories beyond the borders of language and literacy.