As you may or may not recall, I found Gregory Maguire's reimagining of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, while intriguing in its social commentary, to be one of the bigger literary drags of my reading life, so I was not all that eager to read up on its musical adaptation. All of that changed, however, this past week. Broadway musicals have been like an aural version of comfort food for me since early childhood, and I've been in profound need of some good comforting lately. Before I'd even completely thought it through, I found myself trolling the Internet and YouTube for clips from Wicked.
At first, all I saw was a mishmash of so-so music and an over-large cast wearing over-the-top costumes--and more than enough onstage pageantry to make it a long-running hit a la The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. But then I took a closer look and noticed a definite homoerotic frisson between Elphaba and Glinda (something that I never detected in the book), and it got me thinking.
And thinking. And thinking some more. And then, after reading up on the musical's plot, which, as it turns out, is VERY different from Maguire's novel, I realized how it's just a bit more impressive and groundbreaking than I would have thought from the get-go. Namely by starring a FEMALE tragic antihero in the popular mythological (as opposed to purely literary) tradition of Dracula or, well, the Phantom of the Opera. Elphaba's brilliant, idealistic, and, by accident of birth, profoundly misunderstood. She becomes disillusioned with mainstream society and is ultimately redeemed by love. Also, in case you missed the academic egghead's memo, as the tragic antihero of this sort she is a crypto-metaphor for the (closeted) homosexual.
I can't for the life of me think of another example of a female character from popular culture of this type, recent or otherwise. (Ideas, anyone?) Women, even now, tend to end up relegated to one-note characters in these sorts of uber-popular productions. So I hope that Wicked has a long, long life on Broadway and that Elphaba the not-so-Wicked Witch of the West fully enters popular consciousness to prove that women can be complex, ambiguous characters too.
If you've no idea what I'm talking about above, this trailer is a good introduction to the show.
A depressingly shortened version of "Defying Gravity," first aired live during the Tony Awards show. The quality of the performance is only so-so, but am I the only one who sees something distinctively homoerotic here??? (Oh, and speaking of homoerotic, raise your hand if you recognize the guy introducing the performance. XD )
Filmed secretly from the rafters in London, this shaky little video happens to be the best performance of "Defying Gravity" that I've found online. (Even if the mixture of American and English accents is a bit bizarre.) What a great anthem for activists. ^_^