Last month, right after the midterms, I had the pleasure of viewing the Korean production of Wicked the musical. :)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a hardcore Wicked fan, and I am utterly devoted to the original cast. Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth are and will always be my Elphaba and Glinda. But- this particular cast, Park Hye-na as Elphaba (who also voiced the Korean version of Elsa in Disney’s Frozen) and Kim Bo-kyoung as Glinda, moved me in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I have to admit: the number one Elphaba that I hold to my heart has replaced itself.
(I’ll admit, I cried three times during the performance despite knowing the entire storyline and having watched it once already)
(No, I’m not overemotional)
I won’t bore everyone with all the details of the production and the cast, especially since every production is unique and the experience more so. Instead, I’m going to talk about the more philosophical plot aspects of the musical as a vague overview slash review.
Now, what I love especially about the musical is that it is full of character development, little continuities, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hints, and so much representation. Every character means something, their relationships and experiences so relatable that you can’t help but be mesmerized by it all.
The scene that has always been a tear-jerker for me is one of the first ones, where Elphaba is visibly shunned from her peers because of her green appearance, her father treating her as a mere caregiver for her sister and not as a separate entity. Her resignation at the point is truly heartbreaking, not even daring to hope that maybe, they won’t hate her this time – but instead lashes out in pure defensiveness. This was the image of the truly resigned for me, one who doesn’t expect any form of kindness to be given but merely armed and poised ready to strike if the world decides to be cruel one more time, as it has always done to her before.
Elphaba’s appearance, the green skin, I felt it was an anecdote to the growing tumor of identity problems in our society. This is a personal opinion and may or may not be what the writers had intended – but the green skin, coupled with the ‘wicked’ identity donned to her in the original concept of The Wizard of Oz, has formed an unbreakable connection within our minds. By telling us that – no, the green skin isn’t what made her wicked, nor is it the wickedness that made her green, but our discrimination of her at first glance, our assumptions, and our insistence within us that she must be wicked – it lets us break through the stereotypes.
What is more interesting about these points is that all the characters seem to act their stereotypes at the beginning. Elphaba is the cranky and downright malicious (wicked) existence, Galinda the empty-headed blonde who is only concerned with superficial matters, Fiyero the prince, the playboy who disregards education altogether – every single one of these are what the people expect when they hear the character descriptions. But later we will be able to discover, as Elphaba progresses to realize that this doesn’t matter, other people’s opinions and prejudices shouldn’t effect her of her goals and consequently grows free of her shackles, that every other character will break the stereotype, what we expect of them, and become what they were on the inside, what they had the potential to become all along. This can mean that because they were expected to act in a certain way, they proceeded to do so. Because that’s easy, and that wouldn’t gain any unnecessary stares or mutters behind their backs. But when they meet the green girl, the green girl that nobody ever gave a chance to hear out, and discover that she is so much more than what she looks – empathetic and altruistic, easily giving and moved despite what the world has subjected her to – and realizes that maybe, the ‘me’ that my peers and I have constructed throughout the years is not the ‘real’ me.
Elphaba’s plight lasted throughout her whole life, up to the point when she decided that she didn’t need anyone else to become the great person that she always wanted to be. As evidenced in the song The Wizard and I, at first she wants to be of use to someone else, wants to be accepted by others. And that overshadows her dreams, her motivations. It can be seen that what she wants with the Wizard is to be accepted – by her father, sister and the masses – and not to achieve the things that she had always wanted. Despite wanting to be independent, she is somehow relying on others to make sure that she will be safe, and that hinders her motivation. During the famous aria Defying Gravity, one of Glinda’s lines include ‘You can have all you’ve ever wanted’ to which Elphaba replies, ‘I know. But I don’t want it. I can’t want it anymore’ because she knows, she realized that what she has looked for until now, all those days of dreaming of the Wizard, what she had truly been yearning for was acceptance. And she has realized that to achieve her real dreams, she didn’t need anybody’s acceptance or approval. She herself would be enough because acceptance is but a fickle thing. They may cheer for you at one moment but turn your back in you the next. What she wanted was not a lie – her true ambitions were capable of overcoming all of that. When she decides that she herself is enough, all of her concern for her appearance disappears. Not a single word mentioning the subject is raised afterwards, and Elphaba treats herself with so much confidence. This brings us to an important point: You don’t need anybody’s acceptance or approval to be someone. You are to find the people who accept you as you are, and if they don’t, if they want you to change – they probably aren’t worth the time and effort to change yourself in the first place.
I could go on and on about a variety of other different topics on this, about how the role of the media, the emotionally traumatized, the overdependent were portrayed in this musical in a mere few hours of singing and dancing, but I felt that this was the one that needed saying the most. I might come back with a series of like-intended posts, I’m not sure. But I sure do hope that I will have the chance (the honor) of seeing this musical again, especially since it is one of my favorites as well :)
Pictures of the experience under the cut!