The children’s classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, is timeless and the subject of constant revivals that test the ability of the book’s star power by revamping the story line to appeal to a different generation. As a student who grew up in the theatre, my love for the Wizard of Oz did not come when I was a child reading this book, but when the Broadway musical Wicked came to stage. I was officially spellbound by the story of Elphaba, also known as the Wicked Witch of the West, the girl who as a result of her mother’s mistake, took on a greenish hue and was ostracized for looking different. Her whole life all she wanted was to feel normal, which speaks to many young women who are growing into themselves and just want to fit in. While I will save you from the full plot, the bottom line is that the Wicked Witch of the West was no longer portrayed as an evil witch, but as a misunderstood woman who lost the love of her life in a tragic ending that resulted in her subsequent lack of faith for the power of good.
The Wicked Witch of the West is the most hated character in Baum’s story, especially as she relentlessly tried to kill Dorothy and her friends, and ultimately made them hostages in her country. I believe that the play was attempting to shed a different and more empathetic view on this character. The reason why this play is continuing to tour today and still considered a huge success is not only because it is visually and aesthetically pleasing to the audience, but also because people want to see the good in Elphaba, to understand why she became the way she is, and to justify her evil nature. In Wicked, Elphaba is the victim, a green girl who simply wants to be normal, and ultimately as her attempts at love and happiness kept failing, resorts to evil because she saw no point in trying to be good when all it did was create more pain. Unlike Baum’s book, the musical incorporates themes that are more tailored towards adults, but regardless, it is extremely relatable for those who are having difficulty accepting failure and loving themselves for who they are, rather than what the they think they need to become. This is not to say that anyone who loses love and cannot fit in must become an evil villain, but it does help others conceptualize that wickedness is not always such a clear-cut category, for more often than not, judgment is a result of misunderstanding.