wicked vs. wicked.

I was lucky enough to see Wicked again this past weekend at the Detroit Opera House with some of my family. Anne Brummel & Tiffany Haas were outstanding as Elphaba and G(a)linda, as were the other cast members. I could go on and on and on about how much I love this musical – from the script, the actors, the songs, the orchestration, the costumes, the props, the lights, the humour, the sets and my deep love of all things OZ – but I won’t.

In 1995, Gregory Maguire wrote a (very popular) novel called Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. With anticipation of poppy fields and yellow brick roads, I read the book – but was left disappointed. I felt the book went on and on, and left gaps and introduced so many characters that I didn’t care about. I didn’t relate to Elphaba and she didn’t really allow me to root for her.  She was cynical and unlikable and jaded. She went insane and really did become wicked. The book was deep and dark and depressing – although philosophical and somewhat political. Had I not had expectations of a “True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” -esque book – based on the misunderstood Witch – I might have enjoyed it more.

I felt that the musical was everything that I was expecting the book to be. It was much more “Oz” for me. The musical focused more on the relationships between G(a)linda and Elphaba – and their connections to the supporting characters. It depicted Elphie as a good person, who was misunderstood and Glinda as a quirky, stereotypical “blond”, and their journey together (and apart) to save the world. It also told the audience about the origins of the Scarecrow, The Tinman, The Lion and the Wicked Witch of the East.

It has been said that the musical plays more off of the 1939 movie with Judy Garland, whereas the book Wicked plays off the original Wizard of Oz novel by L.Frank Baum. This would explain why I love the musical so much more. I had the same reaction when I read the original Wizard of Oz in grade 8 and I was left disappointed because it wasn’t more like it’s movie  spin-off.

I had an entire post listing the many differences between Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and the musical Wicked (there are a lot!) – but decided that there isn’t much point comparing the two. The plot lines are similar – but the details are very, very different. Both the book and musical are just two more interpretations of the 1900 Baum novel – and I’m sure more interpretations will follow in the future with new depth and perspective of old characters (and places!).

With that being said, I might try reading the novel again – but my heart belongs on Broadway.


Click here to see Idina and Kristen (the originals!) singing Defying Gravity. How I wish and hope that one day they’ll sing a duet on Glee together.

photograph via jennie