For a family of theater nerds, we were totally late to the Wicked party. I think the last time it came through town I was at the “wait. You want me to make it out of the house? With both kids? And show up somewhere on time? And have them be quiet for 2.5 hours? Are you insane?!?!” stage of motherhood. So when Wicked found its way back to Portland this summer via a Broadway national tour, I was over the moon. We were off to the Emerald City!!
I have to be honest. I may have overdone it. That morning, Chicken had a birthday party to go to and a wall of rocks to climb. My job was to take her, loop back to get Nugget and my friend, pick up Chicken, go to Wicked, have the husband pick up Nugget and take him to a Timbers game while the girls headed off to Melting Pot for dinner. Oh. And our favorite local bookstore was hosting a Harry Potter event we totally had to stop at. And we needed treats from the bakery a couple blocks from there having a Harry Potter baked goods day. We clearly had to go there. What could possibly go wrong? Luckily all the stars aligned and we did all the things!
If you don’t know the story of Wicked, it’s basically the story of the Wizard of Oz before Dorothy shows up. We learn about Galinda and Elphaba, as well as their relationship and how they developed into the people they eventually became. We learn more about the flying monkeys, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, as well as the Wizard himself. The story encourages us to question stereotypes and what exactly we consider good and bad.
I was a little concerned Nugget would find the flying monkeys to be frightening, and wasn’t sure it would be his cup of tea in general. I wouldn’t say it was his favorite play we have been to, but Galinda descending onto the stage in a giant metal circle complete with bubble machines definitely caught his interest. He liked the dragon hanging over the stage, enjoyed several of the songs, and had lots (and lots and lots and lots) of questions. And the flying monkeys were his favorite part! Chicken, on the other hand, adored it. She was on the edge of her seat most of the show and has been singing Defying Gravity ad nauseum since we saw it. She also had lots of thoughts about who was the good witch and who was the bad witch, although she thought it was a bit silly to worry about since the Wizard was clearly the real villain. Chicken said it was in her top two of plays we have seen.
There is a lot for kids to enjoy in this show. The sets are huge and elaborate, the dancing is great, the costumes are beautiful, and there is something to look at at all times. It is incredibly visually appealing. It is a spectacle that we all enjoyed witnessing. There are some intense parts that younger or more sensitive children may find overwhelming. The flying monkeys can be a bit scary, and sometimes the noise and lighting and stage smoke combined during the use of the the dragon and the Wizard’s facade could be a bit much for some. I think a lot of Nugget’s questions came from some of the complexities of the story line and not quite grasping all of it. But he got enough of it to get the general idea and could provide a basic summary of the plot afterwards. There are a few slower parts and a few ballads that lost his interest (and mine, quite honestly), but then humor or a change of pace would quickly re-engage him.
I think Nugget was a bit on the young end for the show, but a mature child of 8 or 9 could probably get a lot out of it.
Overall, it was a great show and I am glad we went.
What it’s not: suitable for very young children, a retelling of the Wizard of Oz
What it is: a longer musical (a little over 2.5 hours), beautiful, visually stunning, amazing songs, a must-see for any blossoming theater lover, a fun and memorable date with a young person in your life, visually and auditorily intense/overwhelming at times
Do we recommend it? For the right child, yes!