We’re off the see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! Well, we could be if you’re planning to snag tickets for Wicked’s return to the Apollo Victoria Theatre from September 2021. London will be filled with exciting events in the coming months and Wicked is one many people have been waiting for.
The West End and Broadway smash hit tells the story of the two witches; Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good Witch. Acting as an origin story of two of the side characters of the 1939 musical hit The Wizard of Oz, Wicked is everything we want in a musical and looks set to sell out quickly. But why do audiences enjoy this story so much?
The Wonderful World of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most prolific narrative worlds in pop culture. It’s the feature of songs – Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, for example – and the term ‘munchkin’ has even entered modern parlance. The 1978 Motown spin-off starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, The Wiz, is also beloved in its own right.
The world of Oz has even merged with the world of digital entertainment and online casino. There are many Wizard of Oz-themed slot games that utilise the iconography of the film and infuse it with slot gameplay. The software provider Williams Interactive, better known as WMS, has produced even six. Part of the appeal of the film was the tension that was generated through the appearance of Dorothy’s new rival, the Wicked Witch of the West. This fittingly reflects the tension that can be felt in the slot gameplay, and players will notice the range of characters that appear as the slot icons, including Toto, Dorothy’s dog.
The TV show Once Upon a Time (2011 -2018) focused on retellings of fairy tales, and also threw in some elements of The Wizard of Oz. Rebecca Mader’s villainous Zelena was a green witch based on Elphaba, for example. Songs from Wicked have also extended beyond the show. There are club remixes of Defying Gravity, and it was even featured on an episode of Glee in 2009.
Wicked itself was devised in book form in 1995 by Gregory Maguire, which was then adapted into the stage show. Diving into the world of Oz without the crux of Dorothy and her quest allowed people to explore more of the world. As we’ve seen with other franchises, being able to explore a world without relying on following one specific character can help the
franchise last longer. The original Wizard of Oz film gave us a strong narrative about Dorothy, but, because of the extensive universe that was created, we were also allowed to imagine a world without her in it.
Why Do We Love the Story So Much?
One of the most enduring aspects of Oz is that it spans multiple worlds and gives us a lot to sink our teeth into. We have Munchkinland, the Emerald City, and even washed-out Kansas. Each character is fully fleshed out (or strawed out) and have become archetypes in themselves for future narratives – even when writers don’t realise that they are borrowing from them.
At its heart is a strong message. The theme of The Wizard of Oz was wanting something else and discovering that we already had the means to achieve it. The Tin Man wanted a heart, but he was compassionate and caring, the Cowardly Lion wanted courage but actually already had it, and the Scarecrow was very smart to say he wanted a brain. Dorothy wanted to return home – despite spending the beginning of the story wanting to leave Kansas.
Wicked has a similar theme of defying expectations and set paths in life and being brave enough to carve our own journeys. Another moral from The Wizard of Oz is that sometimes those who are talked up as something huge can actually just be a man behind a curtain – another expression we have taken from the film.
For a film that came out almost 100 years ago, the costumes, songs, characters, and narrative of the film have helped it live in our hearts for longer. For those wanting to see Wicked in London during 2021 or in 2022, it’s advised to book well in advance because tickets will sell out quickly. With no film of the show yet, the only way to see it is to watch it live – which is often the best way.