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The book was different

So one of the things I did while on vacation last weekend was finish reading Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked, which I’d been meaning to do for awhile. It’s a very interesting book, if a tad bit slow at times, and the chapter about the inevitable confrontation between Elphaba and Dorothy is excellent. But man, is the book nothing, nothing in any way, shape, or form like the musical. I mean, sure, you expect differences, and a dense 400+ page book is surely going to need radical surgery to be transformed into something stage-worthy, but really, the two things almost can’t be compared. For one thing – I don’t want to give anything away here, so I’ll be brief – the musical takes place almost entirely during the college years of Elphaba and Galinda/Glinda; that same time period is maybe 25% of the book. Glinda hardly existed as a character after the Shiz years in the book, whereas she shares top billing in the musical. And though it hardly needs to be said, the endings are very different.

While there is of course nothing unusual about a stage/movie adaptation of a book taking a wide divergence from the source material, it’s usually the case that experiencing one form of the story will give you some idea of what to expect when you experience the other form. That just wasn’t the case here. Another example of this is the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which is completely different in just about every way than the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit?; whichever one you consume first, you will not be able to anticipate the action when you experience the other. What’s your favorite example of this?

One thing that reading “Wicked” makes me want to do is actually read the original source version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, namely L. Frank Baum’s book. It was clear to me in reading that last chapter of “Wicked” that the movie version, from which I gathered almost all of my Oz-related knowledge, was not Maguire’s inspiration for those scenes. I did read one of Baum’s sequels, The Magic of Oz as a kid – I have no memory of how I came across it – but not the original. Time to fill that gap, I suppose.

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2 Comments

  1. Greg Morrow says:

    I like the Oz books, a lot, but the first one is not one of the best. I do recommend the series, and certainly Dorothy is an excellent heroine (at least as of her second appearance, third book) to read about to your daughters.

    Try to find an edition of “Wizard” with the original Denslow illustrations if you can.

  2. Leisa says:

    I read the book a few years ago, and saw the musical last fall in London. I was willing to forgive a lot in a musical — compression, composite characters, no subplots — but the ending left me slack-jawed in horror. I have to quit either reading books or seeing musical adaptations.