Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wicked: Book and musical

Not too long ago, everyone was obsessed with the musical "Wicked." It seemed to be that people were most enthusiastic about the music. When I saw the musical myself, it wasn't necessarily the music I loved-it was fun and catchy, and I do think "Defying Gravity" would feel great to belt out-but not really excellent. What really caught me about the musical was the plot.
I love the idea of twisting traditional plots-making Elphaba the true hero and tying in the characters we know of as Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion to people in Elphaba's past. But the message really got me-one that I specifically needed to hear at that time in my life, as well as in general-about the importance of not sitting back and letting evil happen, but going out and doing something about it, even if it may cost you.

I had heard negative things about the book but wanted to read it for myself anyway. Those who have gone from the musical to the book, like I did, may be shocked at how different they are. Both of them took creative liberties, but the approaches are entirely different.

The musical turns the world of the Wizard of Oz upside down. What was once black is now white, what was white is now black-but the world is still one of black and white. The book does not attempt to villainize Elphaba, or to make her out to be a heroic victim. Maguire's purpose was to explore the character and history of the Wicked Witch of the West in a way that fits in more closely with the original books and movie. Not to implicate her from all wrongs, but to create a scenario in which a person would be so obsessed with her sister's red shoes (silver, in the original). And, if the witch did have green skin, how would that affect her upbringing and ultimately the person she became?

The book is definitely an adult book, in contrast to the family-friendly musical. It's more dark and gritty and doesn't even feel very much like a fantasy because the fantastic world of Oz is so like our world. If I had read the book first I probably would have appreciated its approach more-it wasn't till I had time to process afterwards that I understood it better.

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