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Defying Gravity: The many versions of love in Wicked: The Untold Story of The Witches of Oz

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It's not all cackling and broomsticks - Wicked also deals with affairs of the heart!

Based on the celebrated novel by Gregory Maguire that re-imagined the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells a riveting, untold story of an unlikely but powerful friendship between two sorcery students.

To the land of Oz, they become known as Glinda The Good - played by Savannah Stevenson - and the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Emma Hatton. As the plot unfolds, the audience are exposed to a world of propaganda, disappointment and magic.

But add to this several doses of love, and you’ll have yourself a very real narrative of itself. Whilst love is in the air with Valentine's near approaching, let's explore this a little...

Love between friends 

Elphaba and Glinda's friendship got off to an extremely rocky start - but don't many great ones? They are polar opposites. One has green skin and is unpopular amongst her peers; the other doesn't and is adored. One is magically gifted; the other isn't and wishes that she was, which does little to bring the pair closer. And, almost needless to say, they clash despite being room mates at university.

Their turning point comes via the very dishy Prince Fiyero; their shared love interest, albeit unwittingly so. Elphaba arrives and is immediately the subject of ridicule, the embodiment of ‘uncool’ and to everyone's further amusement, she even begins to dance! Amidst his guests' laughter, Fiyero comments "I'll give her something, she doesn't give a twig what anyone else thinks". To this, Glinda swiftly and passionately replies, "yes she does, she just pretends not to" before joining Elphaba on the dancefloor in a stirring attempt to lessen her humiliation. See, up until this point, the ladies may not have got on like a house on fire but at the very least, there’s an understanding and deep rooted affinity which audience get to watch bloom. 

Don’t Mess With My Man  

There is a juicy love triangle between Elphaba, Glinda and Fiyero. Glinda takes a shine to him from the very beginning and, for a while, the feelings appear to be mutual. However, sparks soon begin to fly between Elphaba and Fiyero. This is particularly heart-warming because Elphaba is ostracised and primarily an unloved character, yet is so very lovable. She is not the traditional, obvious candidate for getting 'the guy'. Even she nods to a love doomed fate as Hutson warbles an empassioned delivery of "I'm Not That Girl".

Putting aside the spells, Grimmeries, magical cities and yellow brick roads for one moment, I’d like to acknowledge the teen dynamic which fortifies Wicked, making the plot fresh, relatable and all the more enchanting.  

I sat there, absorbing Elphaba’s plight with her disesteemed high school status. For a while, I briefly reflected on my own, similar experiences and quietly willed her to get ‘the guy’ like I eventually did - gently rubbing my wedding ring.

When Fiyero and Elphaba share their explosive first kiss (below) after defying all laws of man and rescuing a baby lion from captivity, she utters her benediction “for the first time I feel…wicked!”.

Elphaba and Fiyero

 

Unrequited Love 

Alas, with great love comes great pain. The more Fiyero bonds with Elphaba, the more distant he becomes with Glinda, who agonises over this change. And yet her infatuation with him persists: "I want him, I don't care if he's perfect anymore but I want him!".  As the play progresses, Glinda continues to cling firmly to Fiyero; her love and affection remains one-sided as his for Elphaba continues to grow, and vice versa. 

Then there’s Boq’s obsession with Glinda, who repeatedly fobs him off. Elphaba’s sister Nessarose’s unrequited love for Boq, who only gets with her on the rebound... oh, there’s simply a trail of broken hearts.

The cattiness and tongue in cheek wit presented in Wicked counterbalances the melancholy subject matter that crops up at times; one can also appreciate the humour. 

Lost Love

From the beginning, the audience understands that Elphaba thinks highly of The Wizard and aspires to work with him one day. Owing to her brilliant capacity for the magical arts, this dream comes true and pretty soon, she’s off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz.

Unfortunately, her bubble is burst when she gets there and learns of who and what the wizard is – a talentless fraud who lacks any magical ability, and enslaves animals to boot. The love and admiration which she once felt for him is quickly replaced with disappointment and anger. She rebels and thus, the Wizard smears her reputation - forcing her to go on the run.

After Elphaba’s assumed demise, the Wizard comes to the realisation that he was actually her father - sad as he never had the chance to really know her; this self-professed "sentimental man" who always wanted kids. 

There are various love-related elements which are embedded in this award-winning play, widely dubbed as “one of the greatest musical of all time”. Whilst I could go on and on about all of them, some things are best experienced in living colour, with popcorn and various impressive backdrops and catchy musical numbers to keep the momentum going.

What I will say in closing is that I love the fact that friendship rules even up to the very end in Wicked. Case in point; after getting into a scuff about falling for the same fella, Elphaba and Glinda “womaned up”, shook hands and hugged. Glinda did her crying prior to this, moved on and embraced her destiny; none of this fluffy, overdrawn ‘heartbreak hotel’ lark. What's more, Elphaba musters the courage and self-love to 'defy gravity' and honour her heart's call in spite of what other's say about her. And, true to the ethics of all feel-good dramas, love conquers all. 

Wicked is playing at the London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre with booking now available until Saturday 29 April 2017. 

Read our review here.

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