Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Wordplays Placed in the Wicked Play (and Other Wicked References)

[This article originally posted to on September 6, 2009]
Wicked was written by Gregory Maguire in 1995 as a prequel-type story to L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. In Maguire’s story, three of the main characters bear little resemblance to how they appear in Wizard.
  • Galinda (Glinda)—the Good Witch—is vain, self-centered, and rather ditzy.
  • Elphaba—the eventual Wicked Witch of the West—is misunderstood and can’t seem to catch a PR break.
  • Elphaba’s sister Nessarose—the eventual Wicked Witch of the East—is "tragically beautiful" at the start.
In 2003, Wicked became a Broadway musical and won several Tony awards in 2004. The book and musical greatly differ from each other. The book has lots of grimness and darkness; lots of characters die. The musical has lots of comedy, camaraderie, and joy. (Various references for Wicked are at the bottom of this blog item.)

The music is stunning—wordplay is evident in several prominent songs written by Stephen Schwartz. I have selected songs that indicate the cleverness of ambiguity.

For Good
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.
The beauty of these words "for good" is the possible double meaning—permanent change, or improvement.

Defying Gravity (near beginning and end)
I hope you’re happy.
Elphaba and Glinda sing "I hope you’re happy" to each other—at first, very sarcastically. By the end of the song, they sing very tenderly and sincerely to each other.

I’m Not That Girl (Elphaba singing this fairly early in the play, then later, Glinda singing the reprise)
She who's winsome, she wins him.
The use of "win" in two places so close together makes for light-touch wordplay. The song itself reveals a yearning the two girls each have for Fiyero at different times, when he apparently has chosen the other girl. (The lyrics are graceful for expressing unrequited and/or lost love.)

As Long As You’re Mine (Elphaba and Fiyero)
I'll make ev'ry last moment last.
This line makes nice use of "last"—a noun meaning the final moment, and a verb meaning to extend time.
Somehow I've fallen,
Under your spell,
And somehow I'm feeling,
It's "up" that I fell.
The excerpt includes words pertaining to physical direction in a discombobulating way—fallen, under, up, fell.

The Wizard and I (Elphaba)
I'll be so happy, I could melt!
The expression is amusing because of it sounding like normally hopeful anticipation, but coming from the future Wicked Witch of the West, it sounds like an unintended death wish.

Wicked wikipedia URLs:

Incidental to discussing the three girls above, I’ve sprinkled a few related thoughts.

I listed some of the characters and arrows to indicate general attractions to each other (my observations):
Nessarose -> Boq (future Tin Woodman) -> Galinda/Glinda -> Fiyero (future Scarecrow) <-> Elphaba

My short descriptors for some other characters:
  • Wizard—blowhard
  • Mme. Morrible—carpy dame
  • Dr. Dillamond—eventually baaaa...
  • Cowardly lion—when grown, tail end cameo

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