The Importance of Understanding the Backstory – Wicked Important!


After the World Business Forum 2010 I took advantage of being in New York City and went to see Wicked on Broadway.  All I can say is that the current cast is Amazing!  While I am enjoying the CD from the original cast, the voices of the current leads are even better.  My metaphorical hat and standing ovation to Mandy Gonzalez (Elphaba) and Katie Rose Clarke (Glinda).  Both their individual voices as well as the blend was superb.  Andy Karl’s (Fiyero) dancing and singing brought a smile to my face.

As I watched the story unfold I was amazed at the number of important messages embedded within the story itself.  It almost felt like a life lesson while watching the wonderful cast dance, sing, and entertain.  I’ve commited to my children to take them to see it soon.  I feel that not only would they enjoy the story but that there are life lessons they can observe.  It also gives us a platform for discussing situations and behaviors.

A few of the elements of the story include:

  • Being true to yourself and your beliefs
  • How people are measured and valued
  • Caring for, helping, and supporting others in need
  • Social pressures
  • Giving everyone a chance – recognizing them for who they are inside and not just outside
  • How the labels given to history and the “spin” change how we view things
  • The “spin” the Press does and the true power of that spin – to completely mislead and misrepresent
  • The value of working together – In one song Glinda and Elphaba sing about “…together we are unlimited…”

During the show I kept thinking over and over about the importance of understanding the “backstory.”  The true history of a situation.  Not what was fabricated by the press and those in power.

If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you know that the Wicked Witch of the West is the “bad guy.”   You know this, absolutely know this for sure.

However, once you understand the backstory, the true history, you learn:

  • Elphaba, The Wicked, had a truly generous heart.  She was extremely loving and kind.
  • The Wizard isn’t actually kind and helpful.  He is actually a “bad guy” in many ways, working the system and manipulating others.
  • Glinda (formerly known as Galinda) begins the story as very egotistical and grows through her relationship with Elphaba. 
    • Glinda faces the choices she has made and accepts responsibility for them – changing herself in the process.
  • Glinda and Elphaba initally loath each other. 
    • They evolve into best friends by looking inside, understanding, and valuing each other as individuals.
  • Elphaba was painted as Wicked by the Wizard and the Press Secretary for trying to help others and standing up to injustice.
  • While Elphaba was persecued for being Being Lionhearted © she never gave up on doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  She accepts the “label” of The Wicked in the name of doing good.

So what does this tell us?

  • You need to look at the history, the drivers and motivations, not just the current situation.
  • You should challenge “labels” given to people and seek to truly understand, not just accept them at face value.
  • Look for the person inside, not just the outside they show the world.  They might be quite different.
  • Understanding the backstory is critical for understanding the truth of any current situation.

The truth is out there.  May you Stop, Look, and Listen to find it.  For those interested in knowing more about Wicked the Musical, here’s the description from USA Today. 

“So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.  Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the Land of Oz.  One – born with emerald green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood.  The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular.

How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete, and completely satisfying, new musical in a long time.”

Pictures from www.gershwintheatre.com

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Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes