10 years later why is ‘Wicked’ as popular as ever?

The musical Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, found its basis in Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995), an alternative telling of the plot explored within Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). The protagonist Elphaba is branded a Wicked Witch due largely to her appearance; her green skin is seen as a deviation from accepted ‘social norms’ and her selfless acts are misconstrued to have evil intentions. The musical’s title of Wicked brings attention to this disparity between perception and reality and as such redefines the culturally accepted notions of what it is to be ‘wicked’. With an abundance of references to its existence from The Simpsons and Glee, to Beau Dermott winning over the nation’s hearts with Defying Gravity on Britain’s Got Talent, Wicked holds a firm place within modern popular culture. The musical is critically acclaimed alongside its record breaking success at the box office, with dozens of awards from a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, to two Olivier Audience Awards, and three Tony Awards. In 2006 Wicked made its debut at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London and now celebrates its ten-year anniversary there.

‘Caroline Bowman, Elphaba from 2014 to 2015, stated that: “Fans are the reason the show is still so wildly successful.” This statement very simply explains the success of Wicked’

The continued cultural importance of Wicked has a large part to play in its success. The adoration for the musical plays on the reception of ‘cult’ T.V. shows such as Doctor Who and Torchwood, garnering interest from a loyal fan-base. John Barrowman sang his own rendition of ‘The Wizard and I’ in an ode to his love of The Doctor during his 2008 UK tour. Not only has Wicked garnered attention through television, it has made veiled appearances in popular music by Drake, Wheatus, and Mika. These references play a part in its continued success as its existence has therefore remained in public memory and not been relegated to an old niche musical with a minimal demographic. Caroline Bowman, Elphaba from 2014 to 2015, stated that: “Fans are the reason the show is still so wildly successful.” This statement very simply explains the success of Wicked; whether it is the fact it has been so commonly quoted within popular culture, or due to its relevant themes of diversity and acceptance, it is extremely clear that the success of the musical largely lay in the hands of the fans who have made a permanent place in their hearts for this tale of triumph for the misunderstood. Elphaba finds happiness for herself and stands up for what is right despite the way she is treated for her skin colour, and as 2013’s Elphaba Willemijn Verkaik states, the musical has remained so popular due to the fact “people, no matter where they come from, can relate to the story.” The musical manages to strike a brilliant balance between hilarity and the highly emotional topics of acceptance, diversity, and rejection due to an inability to conform to social standards of beauty. Whether it will continue it’s run to reach the heights of long-standing shows like The Phantom of The Opera, Miss Siagon and Les Miserables is the only thing that remains to be seen, but with tickets still selling and the promise of a Hollywood film in the future, it would seem very likely.

Phillipa Lindsay

(Image courtesy of Broadwayworld)

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