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Merle

Merle

Wicked: The Grimmerie - David Cote, Stephen Schwartz, Joan Marcus, Winnie Holzman After seeing this musical twice in the space of a year, I realized that I really am enough of a fan to track down the companion book. (I love Maguire's book, too. And they are going to make a movie! Maybe.)

So, this is a coffee table book. It is completely gorgeous and very well-designed, with lots of beautiful photographs and sketches and overall a great layout. Which I guess is the point of musical companion books?--I don't know; the other companion books I've read are all for fantasy book series.

Anyway, there is a little less content than there might be. There is not a full libretto, although most of the script is here, illustrated with really great pictures. It's kind of weird when there's a break in the script and part of a scene is just summarized. I guess there are copyright reasons for this, but then other musical companion books evidently do have a full libretto (the Rent book for instance). Maybe they are worried about community playhouses stealing their show. I mean, it's such an easy set to put together, right? There's a lot in here about the set and costuming and such--I am genuinely impressed by how much attention is put into detail that random audience members don't even notice. Or at least there was a lot of stuff I hadn't noticed.

Other things I learned from this book:
- Gregory Maguire is not really a fan of the ending. He had to do some mental gymnastics to convince himself that it's sad enough. [I actually don't think the musical has a particularly happy ending. The first time I did because it wasn't what I was expecting. The second time I thought it was more of a downer, although not for exactly the same reasons as Maguire.]
- They did once have a black guy play Fiyero on Broadway. Not in the original cast though. [Why is it that you can paint a main character green but yet having an actor who is not Caucasian is so difficult?]
- Broadway musicals go through a really long production process, including lots of readings for small audiences (with real actors who might or might not end up actually playing those parts) and then real unofficial performances, where they look at what's working for the audience and what isn't and change stuff. Really, it's a wonder Broadway ever produces a flop. I wish I lived in a city where this stuff happened. (Well, not really. But it would be cool to go to an early performance and then see how things had changed.)

What I didn't really get from this book, and was hoping to get (perhaps unrealistically), was more of a sense of how they developed the plot and characters and why they made the decisions they did. There's this part where the actress who played Glinda in the readings and the original cast (everybody who had anything to do with the musical is interviewed in this book, although in very short snippets) says that Glinda was hardly in the original script. Well, that's very different from how it turned out--what was in the original script?

I mean, maybe this is just me, I love to analyze stuff that I love (it's a pity I don't love very much classic literature), but I find it fascinating how much the Wizard of Oz/Wicked story changes with each adaptation and yet how each new version is in conversation with the ones that came before it. So you'll see a Chekhov's gun in one version that won't fire until the next one--for instance, the way the Scarecrow in Baum's book talks loudly and often about how vulnerable he is to fire, but nothing comes of that, at least until the 1939 movie, where the Witch keeps throwing fireballs at him. Then in Maguire's book, Elphaba thinks the Scarecrow might be Fiyero, but only because she's having a nervous breakdown and is delusional--but in the musical, he is the Scarecrow.

And I wonder if the people who made the musical realized they were making the same changes in the hero/villain dynamic from Maguire's book that were made when Baum's book was turned into a movie. Both take a story whose heroine goes voluntarily into a confrontation with a villain who doesn't know she exists, and turn it into a story where the villain hounds her into it--is it the moral ambiguity the developers are afraid audiences won't like, or is it just a matter of getting villains onstage more? There are a lot of similar things that I wonder about. I kind of hope that if they do make a movie, they adapt it all over again, just to see what they do. In Baum's book we're told in a brief aside that the Witch had used the flying monkeys to drive the Wizard out of the West--doesn't somebody want to do something with that? Because I want to see it.

Anyway, this is going far afield from the companion book, which obviously is not some kind of literary analysis. Get it for the pictures.

They're really pretty.