Most everyone has seen “The Wizard of Oz” and learned about Dorothy's journey to the Emerald City, but have you considered what happened before these events? What about the story of the Wicked Witch of the West? Most have feared her with her broom and green face. What if you knew why she became known as the Wicked Witch of the West?

I first learned about the musical by seeing and reading the book, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire. The book was interesting to read. The story unfolds with the supposed villain of Oz, the lady that always said in the movie, “I'll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Her story from her birth became infamous until the fated day when she was melted by the little girl in the gingham dress and pigtails. The book describes in great detail Elphaba and her life. Her name is formed from the initials of the Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, for example El-Pha-Ba. Elphaba becomes an activist for the animals and a project for Galinda to reform. After reading the book, I wanted to see the musical so I bought the sheet music and began playing the music on the piano. I loved the music and decided to buy the CD and actually see the musical and relive the adventure with the characters.

On May 23 my family attended the musical “Wicked” at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, which was the most amazing experience for me. The musical showed the opening with the celebration that the “Wicked Witch is dead!” The whole musical is based upon the story from Elphaba's birth until she enters Shiz University and is assigned a room with blonde and popular Galinda (later Glinda). The antics and comedy of Galinda prove quite entertaining as she tries to redesign Elphaba's looks, clothing, and speech so she will be popular. The two at first hate each other but eventually become friends. In the story, Elphaba is influenced by her mentor, Dr. Dillamond, a goat instructor to help give the animals rights to teach and hold jobs in Oz. Elphaba is determined to work with the wizard and tell him about the situation. She really wants the wizard to help her help the animals. Later he tricks her to use her power to cast spells.

The book and the musical reveal many types of themes such as prejudices, friendship, appearances and freedom of animals. Some of the diversity of the characters are Elphaba is green, the munchkins or character Boq is short and Elphaba's sister, Nessarose is in a wheelchair, and the animals are treated as animals even though Dr. Dillamond is a very intelligent professor. The expectations seem to be of perfection and what they view as “good.” In one defining moment when Elphaba and Glinda visit the Emerald City and the Wizard, Elphaba realizes that he is not who he seems to be, and she decides to go on her own way during the incredible performance “Defying Gravity.”

Friendship is another big theme in the musical. Glinda and Elphaba do become friends and realize throughout the play how they learn from each other even though they go down different paths. Elphaba displays strong independence and individuality and does not want to conform to the mold of everyone else. Both friends reveal how they have been changed as they sing the song “For Good.”

The whole situation becomes more complicated as a love triangle exists between Glinda, Elphaba, and Fiyero, a prince. He starts to like Glinda because of her beauty and eventually likes Elphaba because of her intelligence and nonconformity. The superficial qualities of beauty and goodness become faded as Fiyero discovers the inward beauty of Elphaba.

The costumes and stage sets are fantastically colorful especially the Emerald City. The music was written by Stephen Schwartz and the musical book was written by Winnie Holzman. The special effects are great for being on the stage. My mom, brother and I recently traveled to New York City to see some Broadway shows and while there we attended “Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain,” a behind the scenes look at the musical and really how any major musical works. The tour was set in the Gershwin Theater where the cast of “Wicked” normally performs in New York and the guides are Tony Glade and Sean McCourt, understudies and ensemble cast members of the musical. The understudies played seven to 10 roles and had to be ready on the spot to play the Wizard, Fiyero or Dr. Dillamond. The foyer showcased the original costumes and props and included costumes worn by the original Glinda, Kristen Chenoweth and original Elphaba, Idina Menzel. The black dress that Elphaba wears takes 40 yards of fabric and weighs 25 pounds and cost $18,000. The costumes take three months to make. Here are some interesting facts.

• Ten-thousand lightbulbs are used to light the stage.

• There are 20 miles of cable going through the stage.

• There are 500 pounds of dry ice used for effects.

• There are over 300 people on the payroll.

The musical has been playing around the world in countries such as Germany, Japan, England and Australia. In the United States it is playing in New York City, San Francisco and it has been around the country with the national tour going to cities such as Minneapolis, Omaha and Indianapolis. The national tour will be at the Civic Center in Des Moines Sept. 18-Oct. 23. So there is still time to get tickets for one of the best musicals that has played on Broadway.

You will be mesmerized and changed as you see this musical surrounding the life of the wicked witch. Perhaps by walking in her shoes you will also see see how she was affected simply because she was green. As Elphaba sings in “The Wizard and I,” “Would it be alright by you if I degreenify you?” Looking through the eyes of Elphaba, you see the wizard in a much different light. Take a seat. Feast your eyes on the show and see for yourself what's behind the Emerald Curtain.

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