At the encouragement of Professor Cassuto, I am back with a second blog posting. Last night, I had the good fortune to see Wicked on Broadway to celebrate my daughter’s 10th birthday. Known as a “Wizard of Oz” prequel, the show in fact has a tremendously empowering story line involving animals and animal rights. Let me explain…
The story essentially begins when socially popular and proudly superficial Glinda meets socially conscious and social outcast (due to her being born green skinned) Elpheba at University in Oz. The last remaining talking animal on the University faculty is a distinguished goat, a professor of history, Dr. Dilomond. During class, Dr. Dilomond finds a shocking message on his chalkboard – “Animals Should be Seen and Not Heard.” He confesses to Elpheba that something terrible is happening to the talking animals of Oz – they are losing the ability to speak. Even Dr. Dilamond is beginning to “baaah” during his lectures, a frightening change for such an articulate animal.
In a subsequent class, Dr. Dilomond is forcibly removed from history class by governmental officials, who bring with them a new innovation to show the students – a cage. The terrified lion cub in the cage is then subdued by the governmental officials with a giant syringe. Horrified, Elpheba rescues the caged cub (who in fact becomes the cowardly lion due to the fact that he was deprived of the ability to stand up for himself as a cub), and journeys to the Emerald City to seek the Wizard’s help. There, however, she learns that the Wizard is behind the animal silencing project. He reveals that empowered animals are a threat to a stable Oz society. She is later criticized for “flying around Oz trying to rescue animals she doesn’t even know.”
I could tell you much more about the show and its complex plot. But it does make several intriguing points about animal rights worthy of reflection. In Oz, animals are being stripped of their status of equality with humans. Animal rights are viewed as threatening to society. And, caged animals find themselves dramatically altered and no longer capable of their true nature. Behind the glitzy costume and great singing is a powerful message. Good theatre is supposed to make you think. And Wicked indeed does.