I want to start this out by being as honest as possible (when am I not?)–Wicked is not my favorite show. GASP. I know. Guess what? It’s not even in my top 5, or top 10 favorite shows, or 20…now that I think of it. But I digress, the point is, I’m not a huge Wicked fan. Tonight I went to the show for the first time in three or four years, someone graciously gifted me a ticket and I thought–why not? I had 30 minutes from the time I was told about the ticket to get on the subway and RUN, yes RUN to the Gershwin Theatre. I huffed and puffed my way up the stairs and got to my seat with ONE MINUTE to spare. Anyone who knows me knows how unlike me this is. I’m an advocate for getting to the theatre early. I like to settle and have time to read my playbill.
However, I think perhaps rushing in tonight was a part of the fated moment that brought me to the Emerald City tonight. I had no time to do anything, but power down my phone and a moment later the lights went out and the boom of the orchestra began. The little dununununun (you know what I’m talking about) happened and then they sang the first notes of “No One Mourns the Wicked.”
Well, I burst into tears. I BURST INTO TEARS! The ensemble filled the stage and I watched them with stars in my eyes as though I had never seen the show before. I saw the smiles on each of their faces and I realized something amazing about Wicked. Wicked is the show that all those actors wished to be a part of when they were kids growing up, telling their parents they wanted nothing more than to be on Broadway. Let me clarify. I don’t mean they said, “Mom, I wanna be in Wicked!” because for many of them, it didn’t exist yet when they were kids (unless you’re talking about Derek Klena who is actually a child still). What I mean is that this type of production, a big, booming, beautiful piece of theatre with sets that extend past the proscenium, with a hundred costume changes, wigs for every scene and music that makes your heart beat faster with every crescendo and decrescendo. That’s is the stuff our dreams are made of. Maybe you grow up into the type of adult that wants to perform serious pieces of theatre, maybe you want to do a show with no set and an intense book–but this is the original dream. I think that’s a beautiful thing and even if you are like me and don’t put Wicked in your top shows, that makes it insanely worth while.
The next thing I thought to myself was how amazing Wicked has been for our community. You all know this, I don’t have to tell you, but Wicked is the gateway musical for so many people. It revolutionized theatre. Things are happening for Broadway because of this show that I never could have imagined. There was a whole category on Jeopardy about the show last night for God’s sake! It really doesn’t get much more mainstream than Jeopardy! People who know nothing about Broadway know Wicked and THAT alone makes it insanely worth while.
Anything that brings people into the Broadway community is amazing. Anything that facilitates us having audience members and fans in future generations is INSANELY.WORTH.WHILE.
Then Donna Vivino (who was on for Elphaba tonight, possibly for the last time since she leaves this week) entered. This moment was really interesting to my mind. I clapped, obviously. So did a few other people, but it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of entrance applause, it was obviously the “hard core fans” who knew how important this performance would be. The person sitting next to me (an average straight male, at that) was clearly confused. He leaned over to his friend and literally laughed, he was like “Uhh…” and laughed! At first I was offended. Why did this guy laugh, because we applauded for the entrance?! And then I realized something that sets our community apart from so many other fandoms. We have the unique opportunity to experience entrances and exits. Not just on and off the stage, but to and from shows. We can go to someone’s first time in a show, or their last and if you are paying attention, you have the potential to see a beautifully rare moment. People who love movie actors don’t get this. There are no understudies, there are no first and last performances. Yeah, people leave tv shows, but you don’t get to see the feelings written all over their face the way I saw them from Donna tonight.
I haven’t attended a “last performance” in a while and I realized tonight how much I missed that. It used to be tradition among my friends and I. There is just a different energy in the air. I remember having to explain that to someone at Rent one night and they just looked at me like I was crazy. People gave extra applause for a Mark who was leaving that night and they just couldn’t figure it out. But to us it was perfectly normal. We’re saying thank you. Thank you for entertaining us. Thank you for giving your heart and soul to a role that means something to us. Thank you for making us FEEL something.
That’s one of the great things about Wicked. It makes you feel SOMETHING. Whether you’re connecting with Elphaba, because you’ve been made fun of and looked at funny your whole life, or you’re feeling heart broken like Glinda when you realize that your love is gone–or never was yours. Maybe you’re seeing things like Fiyero and your mind is changing about the world before you. Perhaps you miss a friend whom you haven’t seen in a while, but you know changed your life. Or! Maybe, better yet, you’re feeling all those things mish-mashed together and it makes your heart swell up as they belt out those now-classic tunes.
And yet, maybe, just maybe…Wicked is important just because it’s there. As they enter their 10th year on Broadway, I want to thank Wicked, the creative team and everyone who has ever been in the show just for being THERE. Because that consistency and love means something to us fans.
So congrats on 10 years of beautiful emerald green.