The main issue I have with this play is how it sends mixed messages about magic, goodness and evil which I do not believe are suitable for young audiences.
For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of this long-running and very popular Broadway play, it’s about the good and bad witch from the Wizard of Oz and their lives before the movie came about. In summary, the “bad witch” Elphaba becomes friends with the “good witch”, Glinda, with both witches being schooled in the art of sorcery (magic) at the Shiz Academy for aspiring witches and wizards.
Elphaba decides to take up the cause of animals who are being silenced in Oz and decides to go to the Emerald City to confront the great Wizard of Oz himself about the situation. Elphaba has always longed to work with the powerful Wizard of Oz and believes she will finally realize her true calling at his side. However, as we all know, the Wizard is a phony, which is presented as the most insidious kind of evil to be found.
“And herein lies the heart of the message from this production,” writes Dr. Brian Howell Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wheaton College. “Goodness and wickedness are largely perceptions; true goodness is found in being true to oneself. It is a beguiling message that reflects some of the deepest yearnings of the (post)modern person.”
When Elphaba realizes it is the wizard who is forcing the animals to silence, both she and Glinda must decide what they will do – go along with the Wizard’s plans, thus gaining for themselves prestigious positions in the land of Oz; or fighting against him for the sake of the animals. Glinda, the good witch, chooses the former route, and Elphaba chooses the latter.
At one point in the show, we see Glinda receiving the adulation of the people of Oz while they shun Elphaba for fighting the status quo. Eventually, Glinda begins to doubt her choice but decides it’s better to be happy than to fight for the animals.
As Dr. Howell explains, “Playing with the meaning of ‘wicked,’ ‘good’ and ‘goodness’ occurs throughout the show,” in a way that is apparently very appealing to 10 to 18 year-old girls.
The play places the emphasis on authenticity rather than “black and white absolutism”, Dr. Howell writes, then asks: “But can ‘goodness’ be so conflated with authenticity? Or does that trample on the absolutes of Scripture? Can Christians embrace a show like Wicked, or do we need to stand resolutely against such confusions?
Dr. Howell seems to think we can, and points to Jesus’ rebukes of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and inauthentic faith.
He concludes: “Perhaps we can learn something from the Wicked Witch of the West. The greater sin is not in being declared Wicked, but in accepting appearances of Goodness.”
While I believe this presentation may have benefits for older children who can discuss these deeper meanings with their parents, does anyone really think a youngster is going to grasp all this? The only thing they’re going to see is a bad witch acting like a good witch and a good witch acting like a bad witch – which could amount to turning the moral order on its head in the mind of a child.
I would have misgivings about taking young children to see this show.