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“You could have stayed calm for once, instead of flying off the handle! I hope you’re happy I hope you’re happy now. I hope you’re happy how you’ve hurt your cause forever. I hope you think you’re clever.” Those were the words that started it all, belted out of the mouth of a petite, energized, and altogether too peppy, blonde. She stood there, as solid as an army general, parading about her cause and chastising the other human being who existed on the other side of that amazing stage, criticizing her uninhibited spirit and troublesome temper. In the next half of a minute, as the scene changed and smoked filled the stage, the lighting flickered dramatically throughout the Gershwin Theatre, spastically altering from drastic shades of black and green, as possessed actors moved into familiar places, swaying in time with the orchestra underneath them. During all of this chaos, Elphaba Thropp, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, took to they sky. She had finally reached an epiphany in her life, a decision that would rock her world and the lives of all other Ozians until her dying day, or at least until Act II Scene 9, “Finale”. She was done being stereotyped by others; she was done giving into judgments, of having to bear unfair prejudices every single day of her life. As she declared all of this in a beautiful song, I, the shorter, thinner, thirteen-year-old version of myself, was captivated. I moved towards the edge of my seat, listening to the familiar melodies begin, but this time it was real. At this point, I was a goner, engulfed in a sea of estrogen, empathy, sentimentality, and tears. That was all I needed to hear.
It has been 638 days and approximately 20 hours since I last saw “Wicked” on January 18th, 2009, but it has been a part of my life for much longer. Not a day goes by were my thoughts don’t wander to “Wicked”, or when I don’t hum the opening notes of a song from “Wicked”, or I when don’t think about Idina Menzel or Kristin Chenoweth, the original Elphaba and Glinda, respectively. Although “” is nowhere near towards leaving its five year home at the Gershwin Theatre, it lives on and travels forever in the hearts of, as I affectionately call myself and others that love Wicked the way I do, “obsessed fan girls”, who never could forget the first time they saw Defying Gravity.
To me, without even seeing Wicked, without knowing how it was staged, what the costumes looked like, or how the cast members sounded, I was deeply and emotionally touched. You know that feeling, after you hear something amazing, when your hands are boiling hot to the touch, in a comforting way, and your spine just tingles with excitement? Have you ever heard something that you instantly loved so much, that when it was over you just needed to stop and think, to reflect on what was just said, sung, or played? Well, that was me after the first time I heard “Defying Gravity”. It managed to summarize everything I felt in my young life, all the “hardships’ and difficulties, everything I had ever hated about myself. To this day there are more things about myself that I hate than love. Elphaba felt that too, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her from, for once, being happy. I, basically, fell in love with this song. And believe me, when I fall in love with something, I fall hard. Hard like all of the sudden your feet are pulled out from you, and you find yourself face first on concrete, hard. And yes, I am aware that I am a dork.
On that cold winter day, as my family and I traveled into New York City, my emotions could have been described as a dangerous concoction of ecstasy, nervousness, and pure joy. As I hummed along to “Wicked” in my head, my parents playfully joked in the car, “Relax Kat, it’s not real. You’re not Elphaba.” My response was obnoxiously increasing the volume on my iPod, so that everyone in the car knew my sudden feelings towards them were “loathing, unadulterated loathing.” My sisters took a little more inappropriate stab at my affection for “Wicked”, and asked if I, even though I was “honestly like the biggest prude on Earth, practically a nun, but, like, would I have Idina Menzel’s babies?” This was always followed by some retort that included a long-winded biological explanation as to how that was anatomically impossible. Plus, she’s almost 24 years older than me. Plus, there is a big difference between idolization and attraction, a big difference. It’s just a difference that they forgot to ignore. Anyway, all that teasing was easily worth it. I was about to see Wicked. As long as I got to the Gershwin Theatre alive and with my senses of sight and hearing, I’d be the happiest thirteen-year-old girl in the entire world.
That description was, in my opinion, 100% accurate. As the doors to the Gershwin Theatre opened, I was greeted by the giant map of Oz that hung across the back wall, right behind the escalators. I stood there, awkwardly at the entrance to the theatre, just staring at everything. It was all green. Green carpeting, green walls, green stairs, employees with green shirts on asking you to “move this way” and everywhere I looked I could see something related to Wicked: a mini version of the Clock of the Time Dragon, Glinda’s tiara, Elphaba’s giant hat and broom, you name it, it was there. I didn’t know what else to do, besides spew random facts:
“ Hey Mom, did you know that Idina Menzel hits the last note of Defying Gravity in her chest voice?”
“ Dad!! Daaaaaad!!!! Did you know that the Clock of the Time Dragon goes until thirteen, instead of twelve? And everything in Oz is a little asymmetric, even all of their costumes?”
“Emma, Hey Emma! Did you know that at the Tony Awards, Idina Menzel almost didn’t perform because she has asthma and she started having an attack back stage? Most people think she preformed horribly at the Tony’s, but I think it was amazing, considering that she wasn’t really able to breathe!”
“ Sarah, did you know that on her third to last performance, Idina Menzel fell at a wrong angle through the trapdoor of the theatre, you know when she’s supposed to “melt”, and cracked three ribs and had to be taken to the hospital. Her understudy stepped in, but she wasn’t able to perform on her last day of shows.”
Looking back on that, I realize why my family was so annoyed with me on that day. Truthfully, I was being really obnoxious, but it all seemed innocent at the time. I wanted my family to love “Wicked” as much as I did, and couldn’t understand why they weren’t completely obsessed with it. My mom just playfully joked that everyone else in my family “had priorities.”
But that didn’t matter to me. As we were corralled into the theatre, my family and hundreds of other people that had paid 140 dollars a ticket to give up their Sunday afternoon, I instantly was stunned. I could barely spend enough time ogling at all the amazing detail the Gershwin theatre had to offer, because very quickly the lights went dim. The first act zipped by quickly, opening with Glinda conceitedly asking the audience “It’s good to see me, isn’t it?” A story was unfolding in front of my eyes; Elphaba ran out onto center stage, seriously declaring, “Oh, What is it? Do I have something in my teeth? Fine… Let’s get this over with; No I am not seasick, yes I have always been this color, no, I did not eat grass as a child!” We later met her freeing a young lion cub from a cruel classroom experiment, and confiding in the audience about her love for Fiyero, and how she never think she’ll be the girl she needs to be, how she’s “Not that Girl”. The climax of the entire first act, “Defying Gravity” is where we truly see who she is, how much she cares, or really doesn’t care, about what people think of her, and how she now will embrace how different she is, and just defy expectations. After those 5 minutes and 30 seconds, I saw the world with different eyes, with “greener” eyes.
As a whole, the day I went to see "Wicked” was a life changing experience. On the surface, the musical tells the story of a misunderstood girl trying to find her way in the world, something that is completely cliché to Broadway goers and theatre enthusiast alike. However, this is where the similarities between “Wicked” and the rest of Broadway stops; it tells the story of a misunderstood young girl, who is extremely different from the rest of the world, not just emotionally, but also in her appearance, since her skin is legitimately green. “Wicked” reveals to its audience that wickedness is not something that you can be born with; it is either created from your environment, or thrust upon you because of unfair prejudices. Throughout the plight of Elphaba, the “beautifully tragic” green girl, it is revealed that underneath all the evil layers of a human being, there is definitely a heart full of goodness. Out of all the lessons I will take away from “Wicked”, the one to defy expectations and never judge has resonated with me the most. “Wicked” dares everyone who sees it to accept others and themselves, for both the good parts and the bad parts of our personalities. Wicked dared me to forgive myself for all I have done, and to move on with my life, to not dwell on the past. I do not believe that I will ever be able to forget that.