Wicked: the Broadway Musical versus the Novel

Wicked, the Broadway musical, is a spectacular and colorful yet at the same time dark show that will amaze and mesmerize you for two and a half hours. The Broadway show Wicked is an adaptation of the best selling novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

For those of you who have never grown tired of seeing The Wizard of Oz year after year growing up and even as an adult, the book and musical are both great sources for you to continue with your fascination of the land of Oz. Fantastic music is set to a captivating and thrilling cast of characters that a majority of Americans will probably never grow tired of. It is prequel of sorts to The Wizard of Oz, and most definitely brings back glimpses of a child’s imagination for all those who see the show.

Although the Broadway version of Wicked is based on the novel, there are several differences between the two. I really recommend that you read the book as well as see the musical. Just don’t allow yourself to be heart broken if you happen to read the novel first and then don’t see the exact story played on stage when you go to see the musical. After all, the musical is a condensed two hour version, while the novel will probably take about a week’s worth of steady reading to get through.

The musical, in all American fashion, tries to explain, answer and gloss over somewhat many of the in-depth parts of the Maguire novel. Of course that is to be expected. The musical Wicked is mostly told from the perspective of Glinda the Good Witch, while the novel is told from several different perspectives. One of the main sources of the book is Elphaba throughout the last two thirds of the novel.

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In Wicked the musical, Elphaba is misunderstood, intelligent, but basically good. In the novel Elphaba is a darker and much more developed character who is in touch more with her inner demon. Elphaba and Glinda’s friendship is also different in the play and novel. In Maguire’s novel, the character of Glinda is truly brought to life. She is selfish, caring, careless, beautiful, and human, all of the very qualities that the Wizard of Oz and the musical as well left out.

Both story lines are concerned with the Oz animals and the connections and revelations from the Wizard of Oz original. Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man all make heart warming appearances. Here again there are some big differences between the novel and musical in terms of who they are and how they came to be.

The ending to the Broadway version of Wicked is much different than Maguire’s. I won’t ruin the surprise for you, but just be prepared to think, “what?” There is no right answer to whether you should see the musical or read the novel first. If you end up reading the book first, you might discover that the novel is more fulfilling to your imagination. Broadway definitely offers an airy and light, colorful musical version of a novel that is involved and dark. If you happen to first see the Broadway version of Wicked, you might not be as ready for or as impressed by the dark and involved qualities of Maguire’s novel.

By Julie Harmon On August 30, 2009

All photos made available via creative commons licensing courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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