“I’m through accepting limits ‘cause someone says they’re so,
Some things I cannot change but ‘til I try, I’ll never know.”
- Elphaba, Wicked
All (yellow brick) roads led to the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater last January 22 as theater aficionados traveled to see the much-awaited Manila run of Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz during its opening night.
Spell-binding, bold and larger than life, the musical tells the story not only of the Land of Oz—long before Dorothy dropped in with her glittering, red shoes—but also the unlikely friendship between the Wicked Witch of the West, the green yet courageous Elphaba, and the Good Witch of the North, the perky yet endearing Glinda (silent guhhh!)
With over 50 awards, including a Grammy and three Tony’s which it garnered over its ten-year run abroad, the show was sold out weeks before its opening. And there’s no wonder why.
The first time I learned about Wicked was during my high school songfest. My section sang “One Short Day” and its catchy melody and remarkable lyrics got me curious. Since then, I have been singing songs from the show to my heart’s content.
In 2009, I had the privilege to watch the show in the famous Gershwin Theater, the musical’s New York home. Unlike other Broadway productions, the show had a distinct appeal that strikes a perfect balance. Dramatic with its combination of high-pitched lyrical solos and melodious tunes, Wicked definitely left everyone with a last-song syndrome.
Another remarkable aspect of the musical was its production. The show definitely did not disappoint with its flamboyant costumes, make-up and props. I was amazed at how the actors portrayed Elphaba and Glinda, considering they were only fictional characters from a book.
The set design may not have a revolving stage like Les Miserables or a helicopter landing onstage like Miss Saigon, but it was definitely a sight to behold. One could see the hard work the crew put into making the props. I could literally hear the audience hold their breaths as the opening scene started. Elphaba’s breathtaking performance of “Defying Gravity” was so riveting that my eyes were glued onstage.
With the show’s big hits like “Popular”, “For Good” and “Defying Gravity,” and Filipinos’ affinity for music, it seemed inevitable for local theater enthusiasts to catch the same Wicked craze that has taken over abroad. Before the show’s eventual run here, many put up Facebook pages and petitioned the show’s producers to bring Wicked to Manila. Fortunately, the wizard finally granted our wish and bestowed us with a three-month run.
While the CCP stage felt cramped for a larger-than-life musical, the foreign cast definitely made up for it with their witty lines and banters. The three hours flew by as the actors and actresses belted out, crooned, shimmied, waved their wands amidst a stream of bubbles, gave make-overs, made life-long friendships and fell in love.
With a show that bewitches just about everyone, Wicked definitely deserves two-thumbs up! It was able to transport its audience to the wonderful world of Oz and give them the experience of a lifetime.
People normally step into the double doors of theaters expecting a song-and-dance number of sorts. Wicked delivered more than that. Just as Elphaba and Glinda grew as friends in their adventures and realized their potentials, the musical made its audience feel as if they can reach for the sky, unrestricted, boundless and ultimately, unlimited.