Wicked the Musical soars when it focuses on female friendship
Long before people were letting go of a cold snap, audiences were mesmerized by well-known characters and their stories before anyone strolled down the yellow brick road. While iconic Broadway stars will forever be tied to the iconic characters of Elphaba and Glinda, it is the bond between those two characters which brings Wicked the musical lovers back to the theater time and again.
Since 2003, audiences have seen Glinda float onto the stage in her bubble and watched Elphaba defy gravity on her broom. Although many people know the story and can sing every word, the musical is more than a note of the familiar that draws people back into the theater. It is a celebration of female friendship, both at its highs and lows.
Currently, Wicked the Musical is on a national tour. While there have been many productions over the year, the familiar sometimes allows the audience to dig a little deeper into the characters and their portrayals. It is time to notice a turn of a phrase or the subtly of a moment. When it comes to how Elphaba and Glinda evolve their relationship, it allows them to celebrate their own inner strength.
While the arc of the musical has a traditional trope of girls who dislike each other finding a common bond and friendship, it is more than just the mean girl transformation. Neither character loses sight of their own personality. From bubbly Glinda to introspective Elphaba, each character’s personality shines, more importantly, she is strengthened by having another support her.
In the current Wicked the Musical touring production, presently playing at Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, Elphaba is played by Lissa deGuzman. While deGuzman carefully belts those iconic numbers, it is the moments of insecurity where her range soars. The audience empathizes with her frustrations, longs for her moment of realization, and cheers when she goes against the easy path.
When deGuzman combines talents with Jennafer Newberry, Glinda, the audience looks to that evolving relationship as a metaphor for their own personal journey. Different people can and should find commonality. As some of the lyrics reference, flying in tandem, there are no boundaries in the journey.
Contrasting the Elphaba character, Newberry’s Glinda hits comic relief with perfect timing. Although she glitters in all her grandeur, the portrayal does not gloss over the insecurities that Glinda faces. As she realizes the real accomplishment is not standing in adoration but having a true friend in her corner, those moments are when the “good” becomes great.
While fans of the iconic Broadway musical will always have their favorite, Glinda or Elphaba, the reality is that each character is nothing without the other. In a world where female relations can tear others down instead of building them up, this story is more than imploring people to see beyond the easy labels and categories. It is looking at those around you to see how they are a positive influence on life’s journey.
Although some dream of being popular or imagine what it could be like to defy gravity, life is more grounded in the little moments of magic. Call it karma, good deeds reaping what they sow, or just life, the reality is that people make every day fuller, even if that day has some missteps along the way. For those who want to see the good, there will be a greener pasture waiting at the end of that road.
Wicked The Musical is currently playing at Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando. It will continue onto other cities. In addition, the show plays on Broadway and in London.