This week I went to see “Wicked” for the fourth time and was surprised to realize how timely the social commentary is almost 20 years after it was written. The first time I saw it on Broadway in 2004, George W. Bush was president. We had been chasing Weapons of Mass Destruction in in Iraq and discovered we had been deceived. So the lines about the wizard telling people the lies they want to hear and the government uniting people by blaming others seemed right on.
Now, in 2017, with Mr. Trump in the White House, the Wizard’s line that he lies “only verbally” seems so much funnier. And Madame Morrible making up fake news releases about the so called “wicked ” witch is unbelievably current.
This timelessness is discussed in “Wicked: The Grimmerie,” a book about the making of the musical. When Gregory Maguire wrote the novel in 1995 it was in response to government lies from Watergate to the Gulf War. Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book for the musical, says when she started working on it in 1998 the wizard seemed a lot like Bill Clinton and his scandal at the time.
“The Wizard has no power. He has to exploit the fear and ignorance of others. That is a theme in history that repeats itself over and over,” says producer Marc Platt.
I always thought the clock face and all the cogs and gears in the set of “Wicked” were to signify the time machine that is taking us back to the story before “The Wizard of Oz.” Now I see that we, like the people in OZ, are trapped in the clock. The cogs of our world are pulling us continuously, helplessly through an unbroken cycle of deception. Like clock work.