Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Defying Gravity

Some Broadway musicals may be fluffy brainless stories about tap dancing but a lot of them really have solid storylines that dissect serious issues. Romance aside, a myriad of musicals have tackled the war in Vietnam, prostitution, poverty, AIDS, relationships, and rebelling against society…

I’m listening to the soundtrack of Wicked, one of my favorite musicals, and I felt like I just had to blog about it. For those not in the know, Wicked is a story about the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, aka Elphaba. It’s a twist on the character, who in The Wizard of Oz is depicted as the ugly green-skinned witch who was the wizard’s enemy and who is the epitome of all evil… A green Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty), if you will.

Gregory Maguire wrote the novel Wicked, the unofficial prequel to The Wizard of Oz. The book was such a hit that it was turned into a musical, which won a lot of Tony Awards (Broadway’s Oscars). I haven’t had the honor of watching the play but I’ve seen the song “Defying Gravity” performed during the Tony Awards a couple of years ago, shown in Star World. Seriously, that song is so good. It gave me goose bumps just watching Idina Menzel (Elphaba) and Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda) perform.

The lyrics of the song are literally awe-some. If you think Elphaba was a mean old green witch, think again. She was a misunderstood brilliant beautiful woman, whose only fault was that she was born with green skin and loved animals. She was more brilliant and had more magic than the Wizard (who if you remember was a fake). She also had a big heart – she became more misunderstood and was considered a witch when she defied the norm and publicly denounced the wizard. She was an accidental animal rights activist: if I remember the story correctly, the wizard tricked her into performing some magic and before she knew it, she turned monkeys into winged monkeys. She also found out that the wizard was conducting experiments on other animals! In the fantastic city of Oz, non-human animals could talk English, were just as intelligent as humans and were treated as citizens of society.

Everyone in Oz was so in awe of the wizard and never knew the truth… When Elphaba found out (that the wizard was a fake, kidnapped animals and performed cruel tests on them), she knew she couldn’t be part of that society anymore. She freed the monkeys who ended up living with her and helped her out… She wasn’t causing destruction in the city as what everyone thought, she was freeing the animals. Such a powerful story!

Anyway, here are the awesome lyrics. They really mirror the passion I feel about veganism and animals. Once you learn the truth, you really can’t turn your back on it, no matter how inconvenient, how “radical”, and how unpopular. Elphaba knew that by becoming a non-conformist she would be considered the evil one.

By the way, if you were curious… Her sister, Nessa Rose, was the real wicked witch who in The Wizard of Oz had a house fall on her. When Boq her boyfriend broke up with her, she put a curse on him… Elphaba tried to save him and ended up turning him into the Tin Man. Elphaba’s lover, Fiyero, was being set on fire by Nessa Rose (I think, can’t remember) and Elphaba had to turn him into a Scarecrow to save him… I forgot what happened to the Lion.

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down...

I'm through accepting limits
'Cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But til I try, I'll never know
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love - I guess I have lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately -
Everyone deserves the chance to fly
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me -

Tell them how I
Am defying gravity!
I'm flying high
Defying gravity!
And soon I'll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!"

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