Few stories have been as popular as that of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" which was written by L. Frank Baum (published in 1900), and was then turned into one of the most popular movies of all time in 1939. The plot of this particular story has gone through several incarnations, from "The Wiz" to various popular songs, and most recently it was reimagined in a series of books written by Gregory Maguire. The first of these was called "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" which imagined what the true story of the characters in the book and movie could have been. Maguire's book was turned into a very successful play titled "Wicked" which was first produced in 2003 (de Giere). This essay deals with the plot elements of the play "Wicked," its universal meaning, and the personal value of that meaning.
The play is set in the land of Oz which is readily recognizable to all who have seen the original movie. Oz is a land of magical creatures who owe fealty to a wizard who governs the land. The setting of this musical play is not set in the first song as is the case in many musicals. The musical begins where the movie ends (with the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West), but after this initial tie to the movie the action surrounds the "life and times" of that witch. Therefore, the setting is an earlier version of the Land of Oz where Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, was born and raised.
The characters are also changed from the movie because this is prior to Dorothy visiting the Land of Oz. The two primary characters are Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda (later Glinda), the Good Witch of the North. Elphaba and Glinda meet when they attend the same school. Elphaba is shunned by the other students and somewhat ostracized while Glinda is the most popular student in school. The Wizard is also prominent in the story as an actor who desires to be popular (like Glinda) and as the head of the government. Prince Flyero is a flighty young man who becomes the love interest of both Elphaba and Glinda. Many minor characters, such as Dr. Dillamond, move throughout the action and add depth to the story.
The play is primarily focused on the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, but there are many subplots which tie the major thrust of the story together. Elphaba originally has to deal with the fact that she is different from all of the other people in Oz because of her skin tone. She suffers the same discrimination that many have endured because of their color or race. Due to the fact that she is different, Elphaba develops an affinity for others who are treated differently by society at large. She sees that the talking animals of Oz are being mistreated and she tries to advocate for them with the Wizard. Another subplot involves the friendship that grows between Glinda and Elphaba culminating in the first song in which Glinda shows the other residents of Oz that Elphaba was misunderstood.
During the rising action of the play, the writer is trying to establish who Elphaba is and what her main complaint is. The story is established during the first song because Glinda is telling the other residents of Oz that there was more to Elphaba than just the wickedness that they saw. This view of the misunderstood nature of Elphaba is a constant theme that permeates the action as it rises. There are two acts in the play; the first of which is the primary portion of the buildup. Elphaba just wants to be accepted by the Wizard who she sees as a "fatherly character" (de Giere). She feels rejected by all she comes in contact with starting with her adoptive father, so her feelings of abandonment and rejection form the major portion of the play. She falls in love with Prince Flyero who is pursued by Glinda also. She loses Flyero to Glinda, but then she regains him later in the play.