This evening, I just got back from Manhattan, seeing the Broadway show Wicked. Wicked is interesting - it is based on the old movie The Wizard of Oz, except that in Wicked, the Wicked Witch of the West is the heroine of the story, not the villain.
Wicked is the story about a girl named Elphaba (who later grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West) growing up in a place called Oz who was made fun of throughout life because of a deformity (green skin). When she was going to college, she saw some things she didn't like, where animals (who could think and talk in Oz, and even be a professor in college) were being locked in cages and being prevented from speaking. Then one day her history professor (who was a goat), was dragged off and replaced by a guy teaching people that animals belong in cages, and Elphaba startst to rebel against the system and the status quo. Later, Elphaba is invited to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz, but when she realizes that the Wizard is the epicenter of the system, and the instigator of all of the bad things she has seen, and rebels against his rule, and is demonized by the Wizard's "press agent" as the "Wicked Witch of the West", causing the Munchkin people go off hunting her with pitchforks because she has dared to assail the system they know.
I won't spoil the ending of this one - you'll have to go see the show if you want that part. It is very good, and well worth the trip to Broadway.
Many Broadway shows and operas are all about symbolism, and Wicked had an extra dose of it tossed in for good measure. You cannot sit through the show and not realize that there is an additional meaning that the writers wanted you to take away with you. Perhaps nothing better summarizes this than the Wizard of Oz himself in this excerpt from the Wicked lyrics:
Elphaba, where I'm from, we believe all sorts of
things that aren't true. We call it - "history."
(sung) A man's called a traitor - or liberator
A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist
Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist
There are precious few at ease
With moral ambiguities
So we act as though they don't exist*
Of course, anyone who ever watched the movie The Wizard of Oz knows that the "where I'm from" the Wizard is referring to is America. And Elphaba is someone who is standing up to the system, and to the policies of the government in power. The big unanswered question for me is which minority group "animals" are supposed to symbolise in this play: I can think of a few possibilities here.
In any case, Wicked was definitely an interesting show, and one I'd recommend to anyone reading this to go see it.
*Note: These lyrics are the property and copyright of their owner, and are included here for learning purposes only.