When I was little, my older sister and I had what you might call a nightmarish aversion to the Flying Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. For me, they were right up there with The Michelin Man (a grinning man made of white tires? C’mon. That’s totally nightmare material), crocodiles, wasps, and escalators. Those airborne apes really tripped me up – for several years. And the fact that they wore those lovely red capes? Well, that was downright fiendish.
But of course they were supposed to scare young ones like me. They were (were they not?) the willing minions of the Wicked Witch of The West; an evil psychopath with all the green-ness of Kermit the Frog and none of his gentility.
We were supposed to hate her. And her monkeys. Wickedness is to be hated.
I didn’t know the storyline behind Wicked the musical when I took my seat in the Upper Loge of the San Diego Civic Center last night. I just knew that everyone was raving about how good (no pun intended) it was. So I was ready for just about anything, storywise.
Behind every evil character is their past, not all of which we get to see. In fact, usually we don’t. What made the Grinch’s heart two sizes too small? The live-action movie-makers had to guess at the reason – societal abuse as a young Whoo – since Dr. Seuss didn’t provide any back story there. And he, interesting side note, was also green. The Grinch. Not Dr. Seuss.
But it makes you think, as Wicked asks early into the play, is a person born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust open them? In the famed 1939 classic Wizard of Oz, all we ever see of the WW of the W is her black heart. There is never a glimpse of her soul until she is melting. And even then, she departs with the oddest of oxymorons.
“Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness! Oh! Look out! Look out! I’m going . . .”
Interesting lines, those. Look out for what?
It’s a clever take, the storyline in Wicked, that the witch we grew up despising was someone’s little girl, that there is a reason why she wears a pointed hat, and that there’s a reason why her grief over her sister’s death brought out the worsty worst in her.
I didn’t expect to find a theme of redemption here. Nor to walk away from my seat nearly admiring those redcaped, flying monkeys.
What a world, what a world. There’s so much we just shouldn’t assume about the people who are green.
I know I told you I’d be sharing with you today the details of the writing project I’ve been working on. Pardon my wickedness. Let’s try for Monday.