WICKED: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Which witch is which? Which witch is wicked? And which wicked witch switched with which witch’s wicked sister? Say that five times fast.
These are difficult questions posed in the Broadway musical Wicked, the touring show coming to the Jubilee Auditorium July 2-20. This is the story behind the story in The Wizard of Oz. In this alternate universe, the Wicked Witch of the West is actually not so wicked after all, despite that unfortunate run-in with a small amount of water. Who would ever have though she might wet on a planet that’s 70% water? That’s what we call a fatal flaw.
To the cast members of Wicked the Musical, based on the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, watching the original Wizard of Oz is no help.
“It just gets you confused,” says Kathy Fitzgerald, who plays the kindly schoolteacher Madame Morrible (above). “You think, wait a minute, wait a minute, this doesn’t quite work. The best thing to do when you’re in Wicked is to not look at The Wizard of Oz. Our story is a completely separate story.”
It’s the parallel story that happens “around the corner” from The Wizard of Oz, she continues, the “scenes you don’t see, around the other side of the mountain.” Dorothy is here, the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man, but they are merely incidental. The heart of the the tale revolves around the relationship between Elphaba (the Allegedly Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (the Purportedly Good Witch of the North), who are rivals as young witches in witching school and later become dear friends. Sort of like Harry Potter.
“You watch these two girls, they hate each other, but at the end of the play they have to go their separate ways, but they love each other,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s a really powerful thing, And the music is fantastic.”
Notable numbers include No One Mourns the Wicked, Something Bad, and Thank Goodness. You sense the theme.
Poor Elphaba doesn’t have it easy. She is discriminated against because of her green skin, a rare dermatological condition she was born with. Then she has to deal with that nuisance from Kansas, Dorothy, who stole her shoes after someone dropped a house on her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East. That tornado? It was actually caused by Madame Morrible, who happens to be able to control the weather and in fact is not very nice at all. She’s the true wicked one here. Seems she had it in for the Wicked Witch of the East with the house business, but certainly didn’t expect some kid to be inside at the time, and her little dog, too. Annoying complications. The Wizard of Oz, meanwhile, reveals himself as an easily-manipulated nebbish, and he’s not very nice, either.
Are we all clear on who’s wicked and who’s not?
Fitzgerald says she has a lot of fun playing the wickedest character in Wicked.
“I usually play comedy roles,” says the Broadway character actor, who’s starred in The Producers and My Idiot Brother, among many others for the last 30 years, “but it took me a while to get into the evilness of her, but now I’m starting to really enjoy it. I did her for a year and a half on Broadway and I think I’ve found a new depth of meanness, if I possibly could. She’s awful. The fun thing about her is that she doesn’t start out awful. She’s really a nice old school teacher.”
It used to be so easy. Fairy tales had clearly defined bad guys. But now the lines between good and evil have become blurred. No longer black and white. Angelina Jolie recently turned the villain in Sleeping Beauty into a sympathetic character in Malificent. Wicked turns the Oz roles on their heads so you’ll never look at “wicked” witches the same way again. It’s a trend.