Wicked by Gregory Maguire and the Musical!

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Wicked is an imagined tale by Gregory Maguire about the world of Oz before Dorothy came, which mainly focuses on the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, or who we know of in Wicked as Elphaba, Elphie. Born green to a very devoted priest and a wild mother, her life is never easy. She spends childhood in wild primitive side of the Oz, has little sister who needs so much attention, and lives in an oppressed country by the Wizard, to name a few. Elphaba always tries to be true to herself even though it means opposing authority.

Which brings us to the main question of the book. What is the root of evil? How does one become wicked? (If you ask me, I’d probably say, it depends which side you’re on.)

Elphaba meets her lot of long-life acquaintances at University (probably like most of us). There’s Galinda, who later becomes the Good Witch of the North, Madame Morrible the headmistress, Professor Dylamond – the Animal who later becomes a huge turn point in Elphie’s life, and a few other characters who are important to her at some point or another. There we also meet Nessarose, Elphie’s sister, who later becomes the Wicked Witch of the East.

In the world of Oz, there’s animal, and there’s Animal (with capital letter). Animal is claimed have soul and able to speak, while animal is otherwise. The resistance of the bad treatment of Animals is also a major topic in the book. Somewhat a great symbolism to mistreatment of people that are different from you. And don’t forget Elphaba. Treated different because of your skin color? Uum.. sounds familiar.

I admit I didn’t have high expectation at all when I started the book. In fact it was probably pretty low. I mean, it’s a spin-off of the Wizard of Oz. I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect such detailed world and complex storyline, injected with dozes of philosophy, theology, and politics. It discusses some deep stuff!

I liked the book though am not exactly jumping up and down eagerly to push the book to your face. I don’t think it’s the kind of book that invokes one’s passion (though I did experience stirred emotions here and there), but it’s well thought out, it’s neat and complex. I appreciate how it makes us think. And I’m quite amazed at Maguire’s skills to recreate world and characters that will stay with me for a long time.

Gregory MaguireMy criticism of the book, is probably the length. For instance, there’s one character that we invest so much time in, only to find that he doesn’t have major role to play further on in the story. Looking back I understand how he could be necessary, if only to iron out Elphaba and Galinda’s characters, but still I was baffled to find how minor his role further on.

My favorite imagined element by Maguire in Wicked is the famous glimmering shoes worn the Wicked Witch of the East, that were later taken by Dorothy. I thought the long history of how the Wicked Witch of the West got so obsessed with them was completely believable and touching. Just pure genius.

I mentioned earlier how this book is on the list of 2009 ALA Banned Books for sexual content. There is some nudity but I don’t recall overly explicit sexual scenes, apart from one performed by puppets (yes, really, but it’s quite morbid). Apart from that there are definitely some violence, extreme bullying, and murders (doh!). It’s most probably banned because ignorant people assume it’s a fluffy prequel of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written for children. It is NOT. Once again, it is NOT children book.

Recommended for people who don’t mind some twisted and dark fantasy with complex storyline.

4 stars
1995, 676 pp (Large Print)

First line
A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.

Last line
“Not yet.”

Also reviewed by
Liked it! — Things Mean A Lot | Stella Matutina | Trish’s Reading Nook | DogEar Diary | katrina’s reads | Libri Touches | Ink Scrawl
Didn’t.The Magic Lasso | My Two Blessings (with spoilers)

Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Official site

Challenges
R.I.P. IV (book #4)

THE MUSICAL

Elphaba and Galinda

I’m so excited to be able to review both the book and the musical! The musical was the main reason for me to push Wicked to the top of my tbr pile. This could very well be the first and last time I could compare a book and its live musical!

I went to Wicked the Musical on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at Capitol Theater, Sydney. It went for about 2.5 hours. The building was wonderful and it worked perfectly with the theme of this musical as  it has that old and ancient feeling about it, yet romantic and cozy.

The stage was quite small relatively compared the ones I went to in Singapore, but again, worked perfectly as it felt intimate. The most prominent prop was the mechanic Clock of the Time Dragon at the top of the stage. Though it’s never built much into the story like in the book, it simply looks cool and has strong stage presence.

The story was changed a lot. The main characters and events were there, but a lot of side characters were cut and subplots changed. It concentrates heavily on the friendship between Elphaba and Galinda, rather than mainly Elphaba like the book.

I would even say that Galinda character completely stole the show! She was so funny and charming and the stage just shined every time she was out! I was completely mesmerized by Lucy Durack. The girl who played Elphaba was not Amanda Harrison as I expected (changed to Jemma Rix). I would never know if Elphaba character was just weaker by script, or by the person who played her.

I wasn’t upset by the plot changes. I think some of them were necessary to adapt to the musical. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was the change of the ending. I felt the happy ending was too forced. We all know the Wicked Witch of the West is killed by Dorothy. They should just have left it as that.

Wicked the Musical

The musical was a much happier version of the Wicked the book. There was more dialog than standard musical too, because of the complexity of the storyline (yes, even after it was cut and changed!). The costumes were excellent. Especially the part where they went to the Emerald City. Everything was shinning GREEN. Oh and I can go on and on. Needless to say, I absolutely loved the musical. Do see it if you get a chance.

Rating: 10/10

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