Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Wizard and I

For months I've been going over to the Gershwin Theater at random intervals to stand in line for the $25 lottery to try to get tickets to the Broadway musical "Wicked." It's a great deal. You can show up two hours before any show and put your name in a raffle for the right to purchase up to two front-row tickets for only $25 each. Several theaters do this as a way to enable regular-income folk like us to see Broadway theater at affordable prices.

George and I agreed on a once-a-week trip (for him) into the city to meet me after work to try to get tickets, and then go out for a consolation dinner when we don't make it.

I've REALLY been wanting to see this musical. I read the book "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire last summer and really fell in love with the story. For those of you who haven't read it, it's a behind-the-scenes look at the life of the "Wicked" Witch of the West, starting with the story of the relationship of her parents before her birth.

Although it's a fun fantasy-type story to many, I found the book to be much more than that. It's really a social and political commentary that rings true to so much that is happening in the world right now. It's about people and nations creating "enemies" that they can unite against, because having these enemies makes it easier for said people and nations to achieve their own covert and dishonorable objectives. Sound familiar?

And to those who stand up to the masses to say "this is wrong, this shouldn't be happening" - what becomes of them?

Aside from the political overtones, the story also speaks to the universal theme of not belonging, and the feelings of isolation and vilification that accompany. The search for love and acceptance, of finding your safe zone in the world, only to have it yanked out from under you unexpectedly. The heartbreak that comes with the realization that the generally accepted ideas of "good" and "true" in the world are specious, based on lies and deceit.

Most interestingly, the story speaks to the problem of negotiating the fine line between "good" and "evil." Everyone makes their deal with the devil at some point in their life. How do we navigate and manage the inevitable changes in our personalities that come from years of hard living?

The book goes into a lot of complexities about these ideas, much more than the Broadway musical adaptation is able to. But the show does a great job of at least skimming the surface of all of the above. I highly recommend it. The music adds a lot to the emotions behind these questions, and there are some really great showstopping numbers to boot. I think my favorite one is "The Wizard and I," a song the witch belts out early in the show, as she describes her feelings of hope and elation after she is told she'll be able to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in person. Although the song itself is upbeat, the idea behind it is just so heartbreaking that I sobbed all the way through it.

I just realized I never told you how we got in to the show! Yesterday afternoon I called George to tell him to come into the city to meet me for the weekly lottery. What I didn't realize was that Tuesday shows start at 7:00, not 8:00, so I got to the theater an hour too late to join the lottery. So instead I decided to stand in the cancellation line, and in less than an hour was rewarded with two orchestra level tickets, just about the best seats in the house. I paid a pretty penny to get them, but the joy seeing the show brought me made it all worth it. As for George, he says he's never enjoyed a Broadway production more in his entire life.

Read "Wicked." Buy the soundtrack. Come see me in New York and go to the musical with me. You'll like it.

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