"Wicked" strikes many a chord, and not just during its catchy songs. It also speaks to issues of prejudice and intolerance.
"Outsiders tend to get bullied," said the musical's producer, Marc Platt. "And Elphaba" — aka the Wicked Witch of the West — "is the quintessential outsider. She's bullied onstage. When bullying became part of the national conversation a few years ago, we allowed the show and its characters to be involved."
Cast members have made videos for the "It Gets Better" campaign. And "Wicked" became an element in "BullyBust," a prevention awareness project of the National School Climate Center, an organization that works with schools to create better conditions for learning.
"We are constantly trying to tap into pop culture and make this relevant for kids," said Darlene Faster, chief operating officer of the NSCC. "'Wicked' is such a natural fit."
A "Stand Up to Bullying" curriculum, with student activities and teacher guides, makes use of themes from the musical. Kids sometimes dress as characters, put on skits or make videos with anti-bullying messages.
As the "Wicked" tour travels across the country, connections are made with a local school in each city. Baltimore's Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts will participate during the show's stay at the Hippodrome.
"Students will have chance to go to a performance and to a talk-back afterward with cast members," Faster said. "This way, the show starts to come alive for them. There is such a synergy between 'Wicked' and what we're seeking to accomplish."