With Wicked celebrating its thriillifying 15th year, I have been thinking a lot about the first time I saw Wicked on Broadway. My grandmother had taken me to see it for my eighteenth birthday, and looking back, it is no wonder I was so enthralled with the show. Wicked holds an unusually special place in my heart because Elphaba was the first musical theatre character I saw myself in. I had only seen a few Broadway shows before this one. They were brilliant and I felt for the characters in those stories, but I didn’t feel like them. Come to think of it, there were, and are, several parallels to my life in Wicked.
The most obvious and sort of throwaway parallel between myself and the women of Wicked were our ages. When I first saw the show, I was a senior in high school getting ready to take on the world, and they were starting college. We were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, excitedly awaiting what came next in our lives. Sure, hardships came with their newfound independence, same as I, but we all pushed through them and they made us stronger women. They also met each other, their best friend, during their time in college. And I met my best friend in college too. Funnily enough, “What is This Feeling?” is a song about how the two witches very clearly do not get along at first. My best friend actually knew of me back in high school, and we often talk about how we would not have been friends in the slightest had we tried to be friends then (much like how Elphie and Glinda don't get along right away)!
When I was growing up and coming into my own, I was constantly bullied and ostracized for looking and being different. It wasn’t outright bullying either; it was manipulative and sneaky, much like Elphaba’s peers. I was naive and thought that people who were acting like friends were actually being friends. That was not always the case. There are moments in the beginning of Glinda and Elphaba’s roommateship, like that scene with the hat during “Dancing Through Life,” that remind me of the way I was treated and my heart still breaks thinking about it. However, as I matured, I learned what real friendship feels like. I learned that people are not always going to like me, but that isn’t my fault or my problem.
Another parallel at the time was Fiyero. Now, the Fiyero in my life was a friend of mine that, despite my best efforts, I fell in love with. Didn’t want to or expect to, but I did. He didn’t feel that way about me. He liked someone else and I knew that. I knew I wasn’t the girl for him. I spent many a heartbroken night just listening to “I’m Not That Girl” and its reprise on repeat for a while. But sometimes I’d drift into a daydream and listen to “As Long as You’re Mine” and think about the what-ifs. It was less sad to do that. A turn of events though. In Wicked, both women end up in a relationship with Fiyero at some point. I never did. But I’ve learned to be genuinely okay with that.
“One Short Day” is the song in the show where Elphaba and Glinda visit the Emerald City for the first time and fall instantly in love with the place. That feeling of joy and wonder is exactly how I felt when I visited New York City for the first time. That childlike wonder looking at all of the lights and skyscrapers...I get genuinely choked up just thinking about it. That song perfectly embodies how I felt about New York at 18. There’s a lyric in the song that means so much to me now. “So I’ll be back for good some day/to make my life and make my way/but for today we’ll wander and explore.” I felt that in my core when I first saw Wicked. And now I’m 25, living and working in New York. I did it and I couldn’t be happier.
Nessarose and Elphaba have a rocky relationship to say the least. My sister and I don’t always see eye to eye because we are vastly different, but despite that, she’s my favorite person on the planet (don’t tell her I said that). The way Elphie protects Nessa without question is much like how I am with my sister. Though (ideally) their paths aren’t parallel with mine and my younger sister’s, there were moments in Wicked where they shared moments that reminded me of us.
Finally, I couldn’t talk about one of Broadway’s favorite duos without discussing the second half of my favorite duo. My best friend, the Elphie to my Glinda (neither one of us is much of a Glinda, but if it’s one of us, it’s me solely based on how dramatic I am), is someone I couldn’t imagine living life without. Finding friends in life seems easy, but finding friends who come into your life and make you a better person because of it is so rare. She and I met at college, and Thank Goodness we did. One might even say that because I knew her, I have been changed for good. I’m not even sorry about how cheesy that is because it’s true.
It amazes me that Wicked has been mesmerizing audiences for 15 years. I love that this story is continuing to touch the hearts, minds, and lives of people all over the world, myself included. Has Wicked made an impact on you? I’d love to know your story!
(Photo by Joan Marcus)