I was in New York with my daughters in 2004 and happened to get tickets for Wicked. It was all the rage then. We had to sit in three separate seats, but it was worth it. My seat was in the middle of the front row of the circle, and I loved the show. I experienced something special when the cast reached the finale of Act 1 with the song Defying Gravity. As the song reached its now-famous climax it seemed a wave of feeling hit the audience and passed through us. An extraordinary physical moment of theatre that was jaw-dropping and surprising at the same time. The final bang of the bass drum was like a punch to the solar plexus; suddenly the lights were out, and it was gone.
When the show transferred to London in 2006, I was so keen to see it again that I got tickets to see a preview performance with the superb Idina Menzel playing Elphaba. Again, it was fabulous except that when poor Glinda flew in at the start she got stuck and the show had to be stopped while she was inched up and flew in again. While this happened, she waved at us, and we loved it. As often happens in the theatre when things go wrong and get put right the audience loves it even more.
It’s a fantastic show and Stephen Schwartz is a wonderful writer of musicals. Somewhere in two hours, the show manages to entertain us with a story that explores racism, good and evil, truth and falsehood, power, and the lack of it, falling in love, friendship, and redemption – all done with humour and passion. Who couldn’t love two central but opposite characters who learn from each other? All in a way that would make you never look at The Wizard of Oz the same way again.
You come out renewed and reminded what a great musical it is. Stephen Schwartz has an amazing ability to write beautiful melodies but make the words and music fit together so they complement each other. The best moments soar and lift your spirits. Isn’t that the best theatre when it transports you, changes you and leaves you on a high? I had the same feeling when I saw Les Misérables – I was carried along by the story and what happened to the characters and was taken to places and saw things I didn’t expect. You never forget these experiences that touch you because the feelings go deep in you and the events, and their results add to your life.
So when I saw it for a third time the other day I was pleased to see that all of the above still applied.