What Makes Wicked so Wicked?

Wicked is one of the most popular shows in the West End. It sells out night after night even in the 2305 seat Apollo Victoria Theatre. Although I have my own opinions on why the show is so popular, i opened up the forum on Twitter to why the fans think Wicked is so Wicked. I had some great responses, so thankyou to everyone who spent time answering the questions.

I worked at Wicked for a few months back during the transition from Idina Menzel as Elphaba, to Kerry Ellis. During this time I got used to seeing the same faces on the front row and at stage door, and I often wondered what brought the fans back again and again to see the show. I understand to a certain degree because Wicked as a show is very visually pleasing. It screams ‘Broadway’ and is everything a West End Show should be. Also, the casting directors don’t ever seem to get it wrong in terms of casting. Whilst working at the show, I found myself amazed again and again by new cast members, standbys and understudies. Indeed, this show does seem to catapult actresses who play Elphaba and Glinda into instant recognition amongst the theatre community.Most Musical theatre actresses I can think of off the top of my head have been in Wicked at some point; Julia Murney, Idina Menzel, Kerry Ellis, Shona White, Kendra Kassebaum, Kristin Chenoweth, Caissie Levy, Ana Gasteyer, Annaleigh Ashford, Annalene Beechey, Helen Dallimore, Cassidy Janson, Stephanie J Block and Shoshana Bean to name but a few. Those are just the ones I can think of right at this second.

The First question I asked fans was “How many times have you seen Wicked?” which was met with responses of anything from twice to over one hundred times. Many people told me that they had seen Wicked in many different places, mostly London and New York, but others had been to Japan, Germany, Los Angeles and San Francisco in search of a bit of Wicked goodness.

My next question was “What keeps you going back to Wicked?” which again I received many different answers to. One answer I received from @Weefieryredhead summed up the majority of the responses I got.

For me Wicked’s biggest hook is its music. It was the music that first made me want to see the show and subsequently the casting had a lot to do with my repeated visits for a while. However, cast isn’t enough and the fact that the show is so intelligent and visually stunning is enough reason to go back many times. Wicked is one of those rare shows where you don’t object to the ticket price because you see where your money’s being spent: fabulous score, intricate costumes, engaging set and a top class cast.”
Other people told me that they kept going back for specific cast members (Ashleigh Gray in particular came up a number of times), escapism or just because it had become a kind of tradition within friendship groups formed because of Wicked.  

The next question was “Do you think the show has any important themes or messages in it?”. Quite a few ideas came up from this, some of which I hadn’t even considered. Obviously, the theme of friendship runs very strongly throughout the show and that is what attracts people to it. Love is another very strong theme. One theme I hadn’t thought of, though, which was pointed out by Christel Carnas, is Deception. Christel said:

Things in Wicked are never what they seem to be and that’s the same with the characters. The ‘normal’ looking creatures (Glinda, Nessa, Madame Morrible, the wizard) turn out to be impostors who are only interested in personal gain, while the weird looking creatures (Doctor Dillamond, Elphaba and in the end also Fiyero) are much more intelligent and genuine and have real passion.”

My fourth question gave me the most varied amount of answers – “Why do you think the show connects with fans so much?”.
A lot of people feel empathy for Elphaba, who is bullied for something that she has no control over (her skin colour). Fact is, most young people are bullied at some point during their school years over anything from their hair colour to their choice of clothing and that is why I think Elphaba relates so well to a lot of the audience. Then there is Glinda, who despite being popular and beautiful, still can’t get what she wants – Fiyero. I felt that @Jayvenner summed up a lot of what people had to say about why the show connects so well with its millions of fans. 

“i think one of the main reasons the show connects so well is because they hire people who talk to the fans, and are really friendly. you feel so welcome at stage door, and they are always so welcoming and friendly. when i go to wicked i always stage door before and after, its part of the experience of the day!
i think a lot of fans can connect with the messages of the show, younger fans could relate to Elphaba being bullied by Glinda, as they probably experience it themselves in school. and to see someone ‘different’ find the love of their life etc, is quite a positive thing for them to look up to. and also the amazing songs, sets and singers that are in the show, all comes together to create an unforgettable experience!”
Another idea that came up was, because the show is not connected to any particular time or real place, fans really relate to it. Anyone could be any of the characters at any time. Anyone could be going through what they go through at any time. At any school, there is an Elphaba, a Glinda and a Fiyero – obviously without the magic. In life there will always be a seemingly harmless lady who turns out to have ulterior motives (Madame Morrible) and someone you admire who tuns out to be nothing but a fraud (The Wizard). All in all, it is very easy to be pulled into a world which in a way mirrors life. The very fact that it’s a well known story (The Wizard of Oz) turned on its head is a testament to the connection people feel with the show. 

My final question was the title of this blog – “What makes Wicked so Wicked?” @BabyFairyWings gave a great answer to this questions.

“Stephen Schwartz’ music is just so completely incredible, it has the power to make you laugh and cry both out of pure joy and happiness or be deeply moving. Its a fantastic idea for a show and carries an amazing friendship and storyline with it. Its a wicked idea to show this other side to a character everyone knows so well as its very original.”
Many people told me that the set up of the theatre helps – the very fact that you walk into the Apollo Victoria and are transported to Oz sets you up for the Wickedness ahead. The fact that the show will still be as popular in 100 years because the themes will never not apply is another reason that came up again and again.

So there you go! There are so many reasons why Wicked is so Wicked, and this changed from person to person. The long and short of it is, Wicked has the power to capture the heart and mind of everyone who watches it. Everything from the links to the Wizard of Oz, to the original novel, to the set, the sound, the actors and the beautiful costumes have a special place in the heart of those who have seen the show.
Please feel free to comment on this blog if you have any further thoughts, or if you fancy answering the questions sharing your views. Thank you to those who answered questions – @babyfairywings @Jayvenner @Richyy98 @shivvysmiles  Christel Carnas @lowrri @Brend4M @_kittypimms_ @weefieryredheadand

One thought on “What Makes Wicked so Wicked?

  1. Pingback: ARTICLE – Wicked London Celebrates Five Years | West End Wendy

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