Don’t kill me when I say that I have never seen Wicked. I wasn’t able to catch it the first time it came to Manila, but it was one of those productions that everyone tells you that you just have to see. This is how I found myself sitting in the audience at the Manila leg’s gala night last Feb. 8. Presented by Globe LIVE and produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila, their second run here was nothing short of spectacular. Everyone was dressed in green and black, with some even going as far as to wear outfits inspired by Elphaba’s black witch costume.
Adapted from Gregory McGuire’s 1995 novel, Wicked the musical opened on Broadway in 2003 with music from Stephen Schwartz. Since then, it’s toured around the world and had runs on Broadway and the West End. With its stellar production value and multi-dimensional plot, Wicked sure does live up to the hype.
The book was adapted to the stage book by My-So Called Life creator Winnie Holzman, which probably explains why there are some coming-of-age undertones in the first half, complete with the standard makeover and a school dance. The second half displayed all of the other nuances of the characters, further breaking down the stereotypes. Jacqueline Hughes played the part of Elphaba with just the right mix of deadpan humor and sarcasm, while Carly Anderson was every bit the exaggerated, almost K-Drama-worthy character of Glinda.
On the surface, it is a classic tale of unlikely friendship and sisterhood. While I was familiar with how Wicked deconstructs The Wizard of Oz by showing the side of the Wicked Witches of Oz — nothing really prepared me for how seamlessly woke it really was. Aside from helping the audience empathize with Elphaba and shed light on social issues that we deal with even today: a leader abusing social power to suppress minorities and stop them from speaking out, a group of individuals scared of what’s different and refusing to open their minds to other ideas. Doesn’t this all sound familiar?
What makes it even better is that all of these heavy topics are offset by the spectacle of costumes, set components (think a fire-breathing dragon and a giant Wizard head), fun choreography, and songs (spoiler: all those Defying Gravity covers didn’t prepare me for Elphaba’s explosive number).
Wicked turned out to be a social commentary that had the same effect on me as Zootopia. You expect to sit down for a fun little affair, but then as you go along, it hits you how familiar the situation is to real life.