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The Big Zeroes

watch us go from zeroes to heroes

When I embarked on this project, I looked at it as an opportunity to create a joy-filled year of celebration.  I don’t think I had any idea how influential and transformative it would be.

When I wrote my original list, ‘attend the theatre’ wasn’t on it, because I knew I would be attending Wicked in February (having purchased tickets in November). I thought it might be ‘cheating’ to have it. But when I saw Wicked, and began to realise the significant impact it was to have on me, it made the list.

On February 2nd, my husband and I – with our tickets in Row E clutched firmly in my hand – made our way to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane to see Wicked. I knew very little about the show, other than that it was about the Witches of Oz, it had garnered rave reviews around the world and that I really loved and identified with the song ‘Defying Gravity’, which had featured in Glee’s first season.

So, there we sat. Up went the curtains. And I was transported into this marvellous, magical, wonderful, horrible, brilliant, beautiful and devastating Oz.

The performance was sublime – witty and wise Lucy Durack as Glinda; cheeky, sweet and joy-filled David Harris as Fiyero; and the indescribable, luminous (and slightly phosphorescent) Jemma Rix as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch. The support cast was fantastic. The orchestra was spot on. The story engaging, joyful and challenging.

And when I walked out,  and for days after, I felt like sobbing. Sobbing my heart out. And I had no idea why.

At this point in the story, I must back-track over ten years, to a time when music was central to my existence. I would spend hours singing and playing clarinet, flute and piano. My best friends would come to my home and we’d play the piano and sing into the wee hours – we were practically famous for it! I even spent eight hours one day on the phone with the brilliantly talented Brad Viterale (pianist) writing songs with him – I was the lyrics, he was the music. It was wonderful and colourful. And then somewhere along the way, the music died.

I’m not sure when it happened – a heavy load of work, my stressful studies, a badly broken heart; but the music that constantly ran in my head fell silent. And the saddest part of this story is that I didn’t even notice. I was too ‘shut down’ to see that I had walled myself in. Being authentic and vulnerable became my greatest fear.

So, skip forward to Wicked, and suddenly I couldn’t shut the music in my head off. In truth, it frightened me – what was it that was toying with my emotions? Was I going mad?! Why on earth did I feel like sobbing? I felt like I was grieving some great loss, but had no idea what it was.

It took me a full two weeks (and a second trip to QPAC) to figure it out.

This was how it was before. It was the joy in me – in song, emotion, colour! I was grieving its absence, and at the same time, embracing it once more. I realised that after ten years, I’d taken my heart off mute.

My favourite lyrics from Wicked are in the final song, ‘For Good’.

Like a comet pulled from orbit, as it passes a sun.
Like a stream that meets a boulder, halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed for good

It came out of nowhere. It was unexpected, unforeseen.

But I can honestly say, Wicked has changed me for good.

———————

As a final note: if Jemma ever has the opportunity to read this… I identified so strongly with your Elphaba. I was your Elphaba, only, ever so slightly less misunderstood. I think it was her story that opened my heart, allowed me to grieve and unmuted the music in me. I will be forever grateful.

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