[Note: There are spoilers about the play, Wicked, in this post—so if you plan on seeing it or reading the book or just don’t want to know, don’t read any further!]

For Christmas, a very generous friend of Mr. Shakes’ and mine got us tickets to see Wicked, which, if you’re not familiar with it, is a long-running (and hugely successful) musical about the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, of Oz fame. The tickets were for last night, so, on what had to be the coldest night so far this winter (it was 2 degrees; I thought my face would fall off!), we headed into Chicago for our first night age in ages.

We got in early and had a long walk to the Billy Goat (home of the cheeseborger), where we had our usual double cheeseborger and a Coke. We had planned to walk around the city for an hour or so between eating and the show, but it was so blasted frigid that instead we stayed at the Billy Goat and just chatted.

Anyway, the play was very good, and we ended up enjoying it much more than I had imagined either of us might. One thing I found interesting about it was that it's really the story of a friendship between two women (the Wicked Witch and Glinda), who are both complex and interesting characters. I was impressed to find out that such a hugely successful play had succeeded without either a male lead or the reduction of the female leads into ridiculous caricatures, which is really saying something considering they're both witches.

I didn’t know much about it going in, so I was surprised by the rather interesting political undertones running throughout, as well. The premise is that the Wicked Witch wasn't ever really wicked at all, but was basically a bleeding heart liberal who had been demonized by the Wizard of Oz and his minions (including Glinda the Good Witch) because they needed an enemy. And they needed an enemy because they never really had any power or desire to effect change; all they could really do was hold onto their control by making people feel safe. Hmm, thought I; this rings vaguely familiar. It wasn't nearly as overtly didactic as I'm making it sound in the retelling, but there were a good few times that Mr. Shakes and I cast knowing and amused glances at one another. If only the witch had been blue....

In any case, if you’re interested, you can read more about the author of the novel on which the play is based, Gregory Maguire, and a bit of his politics, here. And if you have the opportunity to see the play, do. It’s really good.

(Tickets for Wicked at Chicago’s Oriental Theater. Official site.)

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