Mr. Man and I recently saw the musical Wicked. I had been wanting to see it ever since it was in San Francisco for pre-Broadway shows a few years back. I have always kicked myself for not forking over the cash to go see it while I had the chance. So, when it came post-Broadway to my corner of the northwest I knew I didn't want to miss the chance.
This musical was really great. As far as staging goes, it was not one of the best productions I have ever seen, but it doesn't matter because the music and the story line are so strong it can carry your attention and imagination on it's own. It doesn't need all the choreographed numbers that are usually my favorite part of a musical.
For those of you that don't know, Wicked is based on a book of the same title by Gregory Maguire. Maguire writes about the Land of Oz (you know, as in Dorothy and the yellow brick road) except that this is the back story. This is the story of how the wicked witch became wicked and the good witch became good. Except it is better and more complicated than that one sentence can describe. Much like life and our own stories we can not be simply described by either good or evil for it is never that simple.
I have seen a lot of musicals thanks to a special theater here in the northwest that allows myself and Mr. Man to purchase cheap season tickets in an effort to get young people through the door- and addicted. There have been some really great musicals. Most make me want to leap and sing and dance all the way to the car. They all make me want to be a Broadway star in my next life (I am letting you know this now, so you know where to look for me). However, none has left an impression on me as great as Wicked.
You see, in Wicked, Maguire weaves the tale of two young women in school who will eventually become known as the good witch of the north and the wicked witch of the west. Without giving too much away, the plot unfolds and we see that while their future names are entirely black and white neither one of them is entirely good or evil. The witches are named as such more as a product of their own upbringing tied with public perception and meddling from politicos instead of any real definition of who they are.
I think Wicked made such a great impression on me because it somehow tapped into beliefs I maintain for myself. Like many, I believe we are all products of our upbringing and that we should struggle to fight our natural desire to look at things with our own light rather than the torches of the mob. Isn't it funny that we are all much nicer people when we have to deal with people on a personal, face to face basis, but when we are part of a group or anonymous we lash out judgments and harsh words for people for whom we do not know or understand? But I digress, I am going off on a tangent here. A post for another day.
My point here, and I do have one, is that not even my belief that people are a product of their own upbringing is black and white. Because eventually we all have to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. Eventually, we all have to lift ourselves up. In this life nothing worth having is handed to you whether you are rich or poor. My other point here is that this is a hard thing to explain.
The other day I was downtown and just as we passed a couple of men on the street yelling at passers by about something having to do with America sucking and jihad and 9/11 and us deserving it all (I can't really be sure about this...living in a city for the past 6 years has made me really good at tuning out random shouters on the street). I didn't really think twice about it except that I saw a father with his three year old. And the young sprout was asking his father about these men. And the father (I assume, perhaps it was just a well-meaning uncle) went on to explain that these men were spewing hate because they were really just very unhappy people who had hard lives.
Naturally, the three year old had a lot more questions because this was not really an explanation a three year old could understand. But, the light changed and we all crossed the street going our separate ways. I tried not to, but I rolled my eyes while simultaneously smiling to this explanation. The answer he gave was black and white. It made excuses. It was part right. It was part wrong. Of course this is just my opinion. And I am always part right and part wrong too.
You see? Hard to explain. And yet, there needs to be a way to explain them. And there isn't a lot out there as far as I can tell. On another related tangent, Harry Potter. Once upon a time, I used to love the idea of Snape. What a great lesson. Snape was a product of his upbringing. But he wasn't entirely good or evil. It forced us to all think about Snape's character. (What? You didn't have long conversations with your friends or maybe just yourself about the many facets of Snape?) And I thought, "What a great lesson for kids reading this book! Harry may not like Snape, but he isn't evil. He defies perception."
And I continued to think this, right up until book number five. And I was pissed. Seriously. I stewed for days (fine, years obviously because I am ranting about it here). I love the Harry Potter series and I will sing its praises from the highest hilltops and read them to my future, hypothetical children. But, I really think that Rowling missed an opportunity.
What I am trying to say here is that through Wicked, Maguire has captured the gray area of these beliefs perfectly. A fairy tale with a moral I can get behind. Rise above your circumstances (even if you have to do it on a broomstick). Look behind the curtain. Get to know a person so they fall into that gray area. And eventually, you will have to take a stand for what you believe in, so be prepared.