9 Things Wicked Tells Us About Life

Hi everyone! Hope you all have been well and keeping safe, sane, healthy and joyful!

A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “Nine Things Les Miserables Tells Us About Life”. It is still my favourite article I have written, If I’m being honest. But then I remembered Wicked, the West End and Broadway musical. The musical that I watched for the first time almost a year ago and enjoyed it to bits. The musical which contained the songs that I sang and listened to 24/7 while my brother begged me to stop. While I haven’t had the pleasure of being a part of this production, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing, just like everything else about it. And then when I was wracking my brain for an article to write, I remember that yes, just like Les Mis, Wicked has some nuggets of truth that ya’ll deserve to hear.

If you are unfamiliar with the musical, a quick little synopsis is down below.

When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West, we only ever heard one side of the story. Gregory Maguire‘s acclaimed 1995 novel, ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’, re-imagines the Land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to the familiar story written by L. Frank Baum and first published as ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ in 1900.

WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba. Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

“Packed with wit, storming songs and beautiful costumes” (The Guardian), WICKED has won more than 100 major international awards, including three Tony Awards on Broadway and two Olivier Audience Awards in the UK.

The manipulation of public opinion and those with power dictate how people think and feel

The Wizard of Oz, the ensemble who act as the public, and even Galinda (Glinda) — they all have the power to manipulate the thoughts and actions of others just by looking/sounding/acting/talking like the type of person that people like. One powerful person believes that Galinda is the good one, and the rest believe. One powerful person believes that Elphaba is the wicked one, and the rest believe. Like Galinda says, ‘Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?’

On the other hand, Elphaba is new to the students at Shiz and to the townspeople. She looks like something they don’t like. And this escalates to her behavior becoming something that the public have been manipulated to hate: someone who is taking her chance at flying, freedom, and defying gravity, aka society’s norms. This evident theme in the musical relates even to this day in age when now more than ever, the opinions of the public majority and those with power, have been the ones that are the truth. Those who have a platform to speak out and tell the people what to think are the ones who get believed, not the ones who have actually done the research but don’t have a way of sharing it with the world.

Throughout history it has been this way. The media is also another big thing that people believe. But they have a way of twisting people’s words, and spreading lies just so spread fear so that those with power can come up with solutions to the fear that they created. Think about that for a moment.

Looks can be deceiving

Just like the wizard changed his appearance into something that would be feared or respected, he was able to get the public to believe he was someone that could make all their dreams come true. However, when he steps out from behind his great machine, Elphaba and Galinda see that he is just an ordinary man behind a facade designed to make him look more powerful and greater than he really is.

This is also somewhat true with Galinda. When we first meet her, she is all frills and popularity, and throughout the show she still is, but we get to see a different side to her; beneath all that, is someone who was yearning for an intimate friendship with someone who would encourage her to be herself.

When you justify dehumanizing someone, it becomes easy and it leads to worse things

When Doctor Dillamond is teaching his class, he suddenly finds a hateful message on his blackboard that says, ‘Animals should be seen not heard’. Before this, animals were just seen as part of the community. But as soon as this kind of talk spread around, animals became less and less valuable and less and less like the rest of them when others began to think of them as such and dehumanize them. Eventually, it became true for these animals, and they could no longer speak. Their freedom of speech had been ripped away from them because of what they looked like. The scary truth is, that is the same today. Someone who looks or acts or talks differently gets treated differently than someone who looks like the rest of the 500 people in the room.

When something becomes spoken of more often, it becomes more true. That is just like what happened in the holocaust; one powerful person was all it took to manipulate thousands of people, and he justified dehumanizing the Jews just because they looked different and had different beliefs. But what no one realises, is that everyone looks different, some just in a way that stands out more. Everyone is unique in their own special ways; which is exactly the way God made us; different. No two people are alike. We are all made special in the image of God; which doesn’t mean that we look like God, but it means that God looked at us and said, ‘I’ve created a masterpiece.’

What we believe in is worth fighting for, even when it seems like no one else supports us

Everyone’s opinion matters. Everyone’s voice matters, no matter how small or big. Elphaba decided that her fight for the rights of animals was much more important than what the majority thought. Elphaba saw pain and suffering in the lives of the minorities, and she wanted to do what was right. She saw what no one else saw; beauty in the animals. And she wanted to see equality. What other people saw was rebellion against popular opinion, and that in itself was a crime to them.

Kindness and friendship is more valuable than popularity and fame

At first, Galinda is hateful and mean towards Elphaba, shunning her just like the rest of the school. However, when Galinda chooses kindness over popularity at the party, she finds in intimate and close friendship in Elphaba that we see progress throughout the story. Eventually, we see that things have changed for Galinda when the two sing the beautiful song, ‘For Good’. Popularity and fame doesn’t always bring true friendship. It brings respect and fans, but how often do we share secrets with our fans? Kindness is the one of the most important gifts that we can ever give. Everyone needs someone to lean on; someone to listen to them and someone to listen to. I believe that Galinda truly found herself when she chose kindness over her popularity.

Don’t let yourself be dictated to, and keep getting up when you fall

Elphaba was pushed down so many times, but each time, she got back up. Like she said, ‘everyone deserves a chance to fly.’ Her drive and her strong beliefs is what got her through and it’s what gave her confidence; not the group of people standing with her supporting what she was all for. She is the perfect example of someone who had the support of no one, and yet her confidence in herself brought her to new heights. Confidence is a mindset; it’s an attitude based on belief that gets us through tough times. Negative thoughts and words aimed at ourselves and others have meaning, just like positive words and thoughts do.

Your future is unlimited

Like in the well-known song, Defying Gravity, Elphaba says that hers and Galinda’s futures are unlimited. And that is the same for all of us. Our futures are unlimited, so why restrict ourselves? If we work hard enough and if we believe in ourselves, then we can reach anything we want to. Our pasts cannot and will not dictate our futures unless we let them. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says that he has a great plan for us, to give us a future and a hope. It says nothing about our pasts, only about our futures being amazing. Even when that woman in the bible was being condemned by the people, Jesus had mercy on her, telling her she was forgiven and to let go of her past and move into a brighter future.

Sometimes some people are going to have it easier than others, but that doesn’t mean those who have to work for what they have are any less valuable

Galinda was handed everything and she became Galinda the Good. Just because she was pretty and popular at Shiz, her life was a breeze and when something or someone different came into her life, it was a huge blow for her. Just because she looked different to Elphaba, the wizard assumed that she was not on Elphaba’s side and enlisted her for his team. On the other hand, Elphaba was shunned her entire life by her own father, her sister, the wizard, her school, and everyone else. But she still rose up for what she believed in. She worked hard for what she wanted. But she still earned the name of The Wicked Witch of The West. Elphaba is just proof that sometimes, titles don’t matter. But most of the time, it means everything because the public says so. Elphaba’s heart is the most important thing. Just because no one can see her heart, doesn’t mean it’s evil. Man sees the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. It’s easy to get discouraged from doing what is right, and just doing what is easy and accepted because ‘it doesn’t matter’. But the truth is, it matters. The creator of the universe, the one who made us in his own image sees us, and it all matters to him.

If someone really loves you, they will challenge you to be yourself

When Galinda first becomes friends with Elphaba, she sings ‘Popular’, where she describes how she is going to change Elphaba to become popular. However, as the story progresses, both young women see that to be real friends, they both have to be themselves, and this is truly evident in their songs ‘For Good’ and in ‘Defying Gravity’ when they both go their own ways. However, even if they disagree on certain things and they end up separated, they still love and respect each other, and nothing has changed. They choose to love each other even with their imperfections. We see throughout the show that Galinda doesn’t stop acting perky and wearing beautiful gowns with sparkles and sequins and Elphaba doesn’t stop wearing her black and drab clothes. Even when they sing the song ‘For Good’ and they say they have both changed, their outward appearances are still the same. What is inside is what has truly changed for the better.

Someone who loves you should not try to make you into someone different. They shouldn’t try and change you. Sure, they can be honest with you to a point, but if they are pressuring you to do something you’re not comfortable with, or you feel is wrong, they aren’t true friends and you are better off without their negative impact on your life.

And those are the few nuggets of wisdom that Wicked has to share. I’m sure there are plenty more to share, and if you have seen the musical and I missed something, leave it in a comment below!

Have you seen this musical? What is your favourite song from the musical? Do you agree or disagree with what I wrote?

Stay positive!

Nine Things Les Miserables Tells Us About Life

Now before we get started,

I know it’s late, but better late than never, yes? I pray that you all had a wonderful time celebrating Jesus and family. 🙂

Over the past year, I had the privilege of performing in the ensemble of Les Miserables with our Youth Theatre. I can safely say that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Over the eight shows, we received standing ovations and roaring applause, and tears and laughter. As well as gaining and strengthening some great friendships, I got to see firsthand the ‘behind the scenes’ of it all.

Some musicals are for entertainment purposes only, and while Les Miserables is certainly entertaining, there are powerful themes of love, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.

I have yet to watch Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s Broadway or London West End performance of this musical, but if you have seen any version of it, I can only guess that it touched you. To my great delight, I recently received my DVD of our performance, and I straight away put it onto my laptop and prepared myself for a good laugh and cry.

The scene in which the Bishop shows Valjean mercy and compassion is always a very touching scene for me, embodying the very essence of the production; love. And of course, the young, barricade boys fighting and dying for their freedom always manages to bring the waterworks. Ultimately, the entire musical means a great deal to me, and it will always have a special place in my heart. 

So without further ado, here are nine things that Les Miserables tells us about life.

1. Our pasts do not define us.

We all make mistakes. We’re all human. Sometimes our mistakes come back to haunt us, and it’s easy to live in the falsehood that our past defines who we are.

Jean Valjean is the perfect example of this. From the beginning of the story, Valjean is looked down upon by others, especially by Inspector Javert. Valjean is part of the chain gang because he stole a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Because of this, even when he is given a ticket of leave, his papers and his brand always remind both him and society of who he is.

We see a remarkable change in Valjean. Despite his past he is running from, he leads a loving and compassionate life, putting others before himself and lovingly raising his adopted daughter. He embraces who he truly is in God and in himself when he tells Cosette the truth about his past. He is no longer 24601. He is Jean Valjean! 

Because of God’s grace and salvation, we can live with the hope of a better future. What is important is how we live our now in preparation for the great future God has in store for us.

Jean Valjean. And no I don’t have a picture of Hugh Jackman lying around. Aka this is not my photo

2. You can always look to God.

Have you ever felt sad? Happy? I have. So many times in life we can be angry, lonely, depressed, confused, or excited. But I have the encouragement and the promise from God that He will never leave me or forsake me. And that promise is for you as well. 

When Jean Valjean is shown kindness by the Bishop and Valjean gives his life to God, he makes a conscious effort to look to God in all of his circumstances. God has become a big part of his life, especially when he sings ‘Who Am I’ and includes God in his tough decision. Even when he is singing for Marius’ safety in “Bring Him Home,”  his song is a song of prayer to God. In this touching song, he sings:

God on high,

Hear my prayer.

In my need,

You have always been there.

You can take,

You can give,

Let him be,

Let him live.

   

Les Miserables shows us that through it all, we can look to God in the sad and in the happy times.

3. Freedom is worth fighting for.

It’s easy to feel as if hope is lost. That our freedom is out of reach and we can’t do anything about it. And then from there, it’s easy to sit back and ‘wait for it all to blow over’, as Uncle Max from Sound of Music says in submission when the Nazis are taking over Austria.

But the truth is, our freedom is worth fighting for. Our voices are worth being heard, and the truth is worth being told.

The barricade boys including Marius and Enjolras, depict this perfectly. These ‘school boys’ who ‘never held a gun’ fight for their country; their freedom. Although young, inexperienced, and looked down upon by society, they fought, giving their people a hope for a better tomorrow. 

Enjolras and the barricade boys.

4. Love and compassion is the greatest gift.

A huge theme stressed in Les Miserables is love. Victor Hugo, the author of the book, asserts that love and compassion are the greatest gifts one can give another. He says that always showing these qualities should be the most important goal in life, and that love and compassion is infectious, passed on from one person to another.

Through simple acts of kindness, a person’s life can be changed forever. Through one act of kindness shown to Valjean, he passes on the kindness to Fantine. He looks past the situation and sees her dire need of someone to show her love. In doing so, he is able to rescue and adopt Fantine’s young daughter. The trio: Valjean, Fantine, and Eponine sing these words in the Epilogue, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

So what kind thing are you going to do this week? Whether it be smiling at someone, or volunteering at a homeless shelter, our kindness matters. Every smile and act of kindness counts.

5. Even the worst people are worth forgiving.

Oh, how easy it is to hate our enemies and love those who do good to us even though we are supposed to love our enemies. It’s a hard thing to do. But even if we don’t think someone is worth forgiving, ultimately, that decision is God’s, and He says that we are forgiven. How great is that?

Javert has been relentlessly hunting down our hero for eight years. Others may have seen Javert’s cruel acts to Valjean and to the lower class in society (he saw them as the righteous thing to do) as unforgivable, therefore he was not worthy of compassion or mercy as he showed none to others. However, Valjean turns all our expectations around when he shows compassion to Javert.

6. We sometimes make our own images of God.

It can be easy to create our own ideal image of God to fit our comfort zones.

We see this in Javert. He is so deluded by his own belief of God, believing it is his duty to bring Valjean to justice. By twisting up what God’s will for him is, he makes his own version of God that gives him ‘power’. God is just, most certainly, but Javert overlooks the other qualities of God; His kindness, His forgiveness, mercy and grace, and His eternal love for us. By doing so, Javert is able to justify his actions. 

It’s easy to fall into this pit, believe me, I know. Sometimes we don’t even notice we are doing it. This is why walking close with God and learning from Him is vital for us to see who He really is. 

So how can we be sure of who God is? The Bible is full of verses describing God’s greatness. 

Exodus 34:6 says,

“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,”

Among others, he is our redeemer, our rock and our strength, he is everlasting love, he is mercy and grace, he is Prince of Peace!

7. Misuse of power can lead to suffering.

Sometimes when we’re in a position of power, whether it be small or large, we can misuse that power just as Inspector Javert does.

Javert has so much faith in his flawed morality that it leads him astray. In his big song ‘Stars’, he sings these words:

He knows his way in the dark,

Mine is the way of the Lord.

And those who follow the path of the righteous

Shall have their reward.

And if they fall as Lucifer fell?

The flames, the sword!

And so it must be, for so it is written

On the doorway to paradise!

That those who falter and those who fall

Shall pay the price.

In other words, Javert believes it is his duty to thrust his understanding of righteousness on Valjean. He believes that if he fails to do so, he himself will pay the price. He lets his moral beliefs overpower his love for others, creating a twisted view of what justice and righteousness is.

Whether you are in a position of leadership at school, at church, or even at home, approach this God-given ‘authority’ with love and mercy. Because ultimately, God is the one with the power. 

Javert and his hat.

8. When we give ourselves to others, we begin to recognize our own worth.

In Valjean’s soliloquy, he says this: “For I had come to hate the world, this world that always hated me.”

But when this one Bishop shows him kindness by giving him a place to rest and eat, Valjean sees God’s mercy and turns his life around. As mentioned above, kindness is infectious. This rings true with Valjean when he commits acts of kindness without asking anything in return after he is showed compassion.

In ‘Who Am I’, when he faces the dilemma of freedom or a life of guilt knowing he condemned a man to slavery, he says: “My soul belongs to God, I know, I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone. He gave me strength to journey on…” And from then he makes the decision to tell Javert who he really is.

At the end of the prologue, Valjean sings these words: ‘Jean Valjean is nothing now, another story must begin!’ But when he changes his life for the better, he can now accept who he is. He knows who he is. He is no longer defined by his past. He’s Jean Valjean!

9. What Kind Of Person Am I Going To Be? 

One question is lifted up above all the others in Les Mis: What kind of person am I going to be?

Ask yourself these questions: Who am I going to be defined by? By God? By myself? By my peers? By society? All nine characters are from different walks of life; who I am most like? What type of person do I strive to be? Who am I now?

Jean Valjean, by the grace of God, turns his life around and does not allow it to be defined by his past. Javert, who lets his delusional idea of justice overpower his love. Fantine, all alone, a scorned and desperate mother doing all she can for her young daughter. Cosette, young and innocent, yearning for answers about hers, and her father’s past. The Thenardiers, conniving and sly, taking everything for themselves and trampling all over others. Eponine, chasing after a love she cannot have. Marius, young, and torn between his love for and duty to his country and his love for Cosette. And Enjolras, the young man who leads the barricade boys into a fight for their country and their freedom.

Ultimately, we are being asked what kind of person we are or what kind of person we are going to be. Are we going to try and get everything we want? Are we going to put ourselves above other people and give ourselves power and authority, letting convictions cloud our love for others? Or are we going to live with compassion and kindness like Valjean?

Only we can make that choice. Sure, the seed can be planted, but we choose if we’re going to water it or not. Through God’s saving power, we can be better. 

Only we can decide to leave our past behind and live in the present to build towards the future. Only we choose our own path. 

So which will it be?