Lessons learned from a summer of watching Wicked

Finding inspiration from the hit Broadway musical  

Lauren holds a Wicked book.

This past summer, I had a Sunday routine I could really get behind. 

I’d hop on the subway from my house in Toronto to the Ed Mirvish Theatre downtown, buy the cheapest tickets I could find, and sit through two hours and 45 minutes of pure bliss enjoying Wicked the Muscial.

Following the show—a national touring production of Stephen Schwartz’s Broadway musical—I’d wait at the theatre’s stage door to mingle with fellow fans and meet the show’s cast. Then I’d repeat the whole process one week later, and the next week. And the next one, too. 

Every time I headed back to see the show, friends and family would bombard me with questions about why I was returning to have the same theatre experience so many times—almost all of them containing a judgement-filled, “Again?”

To many, Wicked is just “that Wizard of Oz prequel,” or “the Broadway show with Elsa from Frozen.” Sometimes, it’s not even on their radar. However, to me—and, as I’d later discover, to many other devoted fans of the show—Wicked is filled with so much more meaning, emotional depth and inspiration than most give it credit for.

Wicked tells the story of the antagonist from The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West—known in the musical as Elphaba. Elphaba was born with green skin, which alienated her from peers and family alike. While at university, Elphaba forms an unlikely friendship with Glinda, a ditzy but kind, aspiring witch.

Though a green-skinned witch may not be an obvious character for the audience to connect with, Elphaba’s isolation feels very real and relatable for viewers who have had similar experiences as outcasts. 

In one of Wicked’s more well-recognized songs, “The Wizard and I,” Elphaba sings about her dream to work with Oz’s god-like Wizard, hoping that once she’s with him she’ll finally be socially accepted. As someone who is naturally introverted and socially anxious, making new friends has always been a struggle for me. 

For years, I attended a sleepover camp where the girls in my cabin all considered each other sisters—except for me. I was always the one without a partner, without a best friend, and without the security that I wouldn’t be made fun of. Since I lacked the social connections every other girl around me seemed to have,  I always felt I was less-than. Even though it’s been a few years since that time of my life, it’s still something that affects me deeply. 

Throughout Wicked, Elphaba starts to take ownership of her ambition and her talent. She begins to understand the value of her talent and appreciates her uniqueness, allowing her confidence—and, quite literally, her body—to soar. 

Seeing the arc of a university-aged woman learning self-acceptance kept me coming back to Wicked, and made me feel like I, too, could defy gravity.

In addition to its messages about self-confidence, Wicked focuses on the friendship between its two main female characters, Elphaba and Glinda, highlighting the importance of healthy and mutual female support systems. 

One of the most awe-inspiring things I discovered this summer is how Wicked’s inspiring messages don’t just end when the curtain closes. The musical’s cast and fanbase mirror the show’s practices of devotedly supporting one other. 

While waiting at the stage door, I met numerous other fans who were just as passionate about Wicked as me. They’d seen the show multiple times and connected to its consistent message. 

It was easy for us to form an immediate bond, discussing our favourite cast members and offering to take pictures of each other when we got to meet those cast members. 

When meeting the show’s cast at the stage door after each performance, I was struck by their kindness and generosity. Actresses Mary Kate Morrissey and Ginna Claire Mason—who played Elphaba and Glinda, respectively—went out of their way after each show to hear fans’ emotional stories of what the show means to them. 

Catherine Charlebois, who plays Elphaba’s sister Nessarose, further encapsulates the giving nature of the show and its community through her efforts online. Charlebois runs a blog where she’s open and vulnerable about her own journey of self-acceptance. 

Seeing the stars of such a prestigious show sharing their experiences and struggling with the same issues as myself makes me feel less alone and empowers me to believe that I too can learn to love myself.

So, yes, every weekend, despite the judgement, I went back to re-experience my favourite show, re-learn the power of female friendship and self-acceptance, and re-meet people who inspire me to be more confident. 

All things considered, I would say it was a pretty good way to spend my Sundays.

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