I hate the Wizard of Oz. When I was younger we had a neighbor who was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz and would watch all the Oz movies all the time. Have you ever seen Return to Oz? Most disturbing children's movie, EVER, and I grew up in the 80s... Needless to say, I was forever scarred by these experiences. Not to say I hate all things Oz related. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a classic that can't be ignored. I was totally jazzed when I got to dress up as Dorothy for a dance recital (lil' sisKort's class dressed as the Tinman, being older totally rocked that recital). I wanted a dog that I could carry around in a basket. (Toto was the original purse dog, dontcha know) Which is probably why I decided to pick up the novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West. Also, I have a soft spot for villains in stories...are they really villains or are they just misunderstood?
If you have read any of Gregory Maguire's novels you will realize that they are exceptionally dark. Dark in a good way, though, as all fairy tales truthfully are. Other than the very end of a fairy tale, when the hero shows up, where is the happiness throughout the story? So the novel is dark, it ends in death (sorry, it's been 50 years, not a spoiler, it's pretty much a given that if the witch died in Wizard of Oz, she's gonna die in this one too), and for effect, there are a smattering of adult situations throughout the story. Wicked the novel is not Wicked the musical.
Wicked the musical follows the same path as the novel in that it is about the 3 witches from the Oz-ish area, East, West, and Good, and how they got to that point. The novel more clearly develops the Wicked Witch of the East, Nessa, Elphaba's little sister, but the musical really glosses over her role in Elphaba's final destiny. The musical also gives very little time to the actual reason Elphaba takes off on the path she does, the Animals. It is touched on in song and briefly in the plot, but for it being the critical element in the breakdown of the Galinda/Glinda-Elphaba bff-ness it really isn't delved into. The musical focuses mainly on the relationship between Galinda who becomes the Good Witch and Elphaba who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, their travel through school, how Elphaba has a moral compass and Galinda will do whatever to make herself more Popular (this, I may just be reading into...), how they fight over Fiyero's affections, it's like Mean Girls, but with magic and green paint. Regardless of this underdeveloped plot, it is good. The songs are fabulous, the sets are fabulous, the original stars are fabulous... My big issue with the musical is the ending. I will not give it away, but there is a happy ending. In no way does this story have a happy ending, in any context. Elphaba dies people. Her former bff watches her die. People celebrate her death. No one solves the Animal genocide issue. The monkeys still have wings. Nessa is still crushed under a house. There should NOT be a happy ending, even if it was written for families to enjoy. Kids know she melts in the story of the wizard of Oz, they will not be traumatized by this event. Unlike in a movie, the actress still comes out on stage after the end to take a bow, children will understand that she did not actually die.
But still, they are making the musical into a movie version and the book into a TV miniseries and for that I am glad. Also, they have distinguished that the mini-series is based on the book, so I expect darkness, and that the movie will be based on the musical version, so happy and joyful and high pitched. I just ask that they consider the ending when translating it to screen, because really, really?!
Plus, I found this and I hope she does more:
Defying Gravity Storyboards from Heidi Jo Gilbert on Vimeo.