Watching a show is a rite of passage in New York. However, as more than 40 official Broadway theatres and dozens more off-Broadway places put on shows every week, how do you know which production to choose? Here are five good reasons for why you should make Wicked on Broadway the show you see.
Based on the 1995 novel Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz by Gregory Maguire, Wicked re-tells the story of the Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the witches rather than Dorothy.
The tale starts at the beginning when Elphaba (aka the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (The Good Witch) went to Shiz university together. The show depicts how a mutual distaste for each other eventually turns into a rocky friendship and a rivalry when it comes to performing magic.
A web of subplots supports the story of the show. There’s the story of Elphaba’s sister Nessarose. Her father’s favourite, Nessarose is disabled and has to use a wheelchair. She attends the same university as Elphaba. One night the scholars at the university decide to hold a party. A munchkin called Boq has a crush on Glinda and he agrees to take Nessarose to the party in order to please the object of his affections. Nessarose falls for Boq and serious complications arise.
There’s also the tale of Dr Dillamond, a talking goat and professor at the university. When Elphaba and Glinda join the university he is starting to experience discrimination for being an animal and informs Elphaba of a plot to stop the animals in Oz from speaking at all.
Then there is the love triangle. A prince called Fiyero arrives in Shiz and Glinda falls for him. However, he finds himself having feelings for Elphaba.
And of course, Wicked also tells the story of The Wizard of Oz – who isn’t quite what he seems.
What’s great about this plot? It’s clever. It takes characters you think you know and gives them new depths. It keeps you thinking as it twists, turns and loop-de-loops.
Wicked’s original costume designer Susan Hilferty created the clothing for the show based on a ‘twisted Edwardian’ style. This is catwalk quality design. The top hats, corsets, netted skirts and tailored suits look like they could have been designed by Vivienne Westwood or other haute couture designers. Seeing the clothing is part of the entertainment. You could watch the production four or five times and still notice new things each time.
The script of Wicked is peppered with Oz-isms – these are English words that have been slightly tweaked or fused together to bring to life the distinctness and other-worldly nature of the Land of Oz. Examples include confusifing, hideodious, devastrated and braveism. They’re not only funny but they serve to teleport the audience deeper into Oz.
The music in Wicked on Broadway has caused more than its fair share of jaws to hit the floor in its time. The power ballad Defying Gravity needs no introductions, having achieved worldwide fame independent of the musical that birthed it. But there are other musical numbers in the show that are just as good at giving you goosebumps. There’s ‘I’m Not That Girl’, ‘No Good Deed’ and ‘As Long as You’re Mine’ for a start. Notes are hit in this show that are usually only reached by opera singers. And there are songs so catchy you’ll have ear worms for days after leaving the auditorium.
The critical acclaim
The creators of Wicked on Broadway are running out of space in their trophy cabinet. The original Broadway production of the show was nominated for ten Tony Awards including Best Book, Score, Choreography, and Costume (see above). The same year, it received six Drama Desk Awards and four Outer Critics Circle Awards. Since then the show’s soundtrack has won a Grammy and the West End version of the production was put forward for five Laurence Oliver Awards. The show has now been running on Broadway for almost 15 years and is considered to be the 8th longest running musical of all time. If the plot, costumes, Oz-isms and the music don’t talk you into watching this show, the stats certainly should.
Wicked is showing at The Gershwin Theatre at 222 W. 51st Street.
For tips on how to get into the shows for less, check out our guide on getting cheap Broadway tickets