Archives for posts with tag: Gregory Maguire

I’m so excited about this announcement , saying Wicked will come to the big screen in a few years. I love Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years novels so much. Those books make me want to vacation in Elphaba and Glinda’s Oz. To tour Shiz and The Emerald City.  To be swankified. I’ve listened to the original cast recording soundtrack so many times that it feels as if I’ve seen the Broadway musical. If only the original cast would be transplanted directly into the feature film. I could suspend any level of disbelief, if it meant getting to see Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth reprise their roles as Elphaba and Glinda. Actually, I don’t think it would take much imagination to believe those two brilliant stars are students at dear old Shiz. However, I’ll be happy to watch whatever movie the brilliant minds behind the play gift us with. I’m sure that after the experience I’ll be changed for good.

Oddly, falling in love with Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked and its tragically green wicked witch with a heart Elphaba led me to falling in love with Idina Menzel’s incredible voice. There’s nothing I love discovering more than a Broadway power belter with range and the know how to use it well.

Idina Menzel has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. It was Defying Gravity that first got my attention, but as I continue to turn up gem after gem I’ve discovered that this is a singer with the ability to bring tears to the listener’s eyes, as well as bring down the house. Her still powerful yet also subtle rendition of the old standard Embraceable You is as moving as it is beautiful.

Now that the announcement that she’ll be singing at the Oscars has begun to gain her the wider recognition that she deserves, Idina Menzel is popping up all over pop culture, as well as in major news stories. This Entertainment Weekly Popwatch Retrospective covers much of her career, including links to some  performances I’m not familiar with and look forward to checking out.

If you’re looking for Oz snark, you’re in the wrong place. I’m an all things Oz nut, and loved this movie.

The only thing I didn’t like was the green one’s transformation.  Too CGI in the face of memories of the incomparable Margaret Hamilton. That wicked, wicked witch, made up the old fashioned way has flown her broom through countless nightmares for centuries. Besides, if China Girl and Finley were such convincing CGI creations, I can’t see why Ms. Broom Flyer looked like something out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Now that that’s out of the way….

Black and white still has its place in 21st century filmmaking. The opening in shades of black and white and gray Kansas not only provided a startlingly wondrous moment of contrast to our first glimpse of Oz, they also emphasized the character of a man who even then wanted to be more than he was. Even if he didn’t know it. A few tiny indications showed hints of compassion and twisted wisdom lurking inside crass greed and selfishness.

The not 3D version I saw was plenty eye popping. Colors everywhere. Vibrant. Alive, flying, gorgeous creatures and plants, flowers…and a breathtaking waterfall adventure so immersive it felt almost like an audience participation experiment.
And that was all just the very beginning of a fun, funny, tragic, sweet, charming burst of entertainment.

I thought James Franco was perfect as Oz.  And that his Oz was the perfect introduction to the charlatan behind the curtain we all know so well from the beloved old movie. I’ve noticed that some people focus on the idea of Oz as a failure at worst, an inept bumbler at best. To me that’s the beauty of it. In most ways that describes him perfectly. As he was. Which opens the door to the kind of character growth that makes such movies so satisfying. It would have surprised no one if he had reverted to form and let the citizens down. What surprised me was how disappointed in him I was, and then thrilled when I felt he redeemed himself.

The best storytelling does that, you know. Makes its audience feel. Perceptive storytellers pour their hearts into that goal. Perceptive audiences embrace the experience and turn singular effort into collaborative event. Every single time the story is absorbed, whether written for page, stage, or screen. L. Frank Baum was such a gifted storyteller that audiences and readers are still responding to the gifts of his creations long after his death.

I still have much Baum to read, but I’m familiar enough with his world to have recognized it in Oz the Great and Powerful. I adore Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years, but it differs in such significant ways from that which inspired it that I can mentally compartmentalize and enjoy its individuality. It’s great fun that Baum created a world so similar yet so different from our own, then Maguire took it a step further when he created a world so similar yet so different from Baum’s Oz. Like the picture of a man painting a picture of a man painting a picture of a man painting…. Worlds within worlds within worlds…. There’s room for them all…it’s part of the magic that is the Land of Oz.

My favorite line from Oz the Great and Powerful: I may not be the wizard you expected, but I’m the wizard you needed.

Oz the Great and Powerful — Official Trailer 2013

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The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire

I’ve finished reading Out of Oz. Reluctantly. I loved it so much that I stretched it out for as long as I could. Gregory Maguire is a genius. Without a doubt.

Odd to be saying that, considering the way I barely made it through the first third or so of Wicked. It read like a text book, or several of them, covering everything from genealogy, geography, history, to socio political interactions and the lack thereof…of all of Oz. A bit heavy on the sexual appetites of the little green baby’s mother, starting long before Elphaba was born…in a phrase, it put me off. Bigtime. Somehow, I kept reading.

Then it started getting good. Then great. Eventually, I could not put it down. It was Elphaba. Once she appeared it didn’t take me long to realize I’d stumbled across one of the great characters of contemporary literature. I didn’t like her. I didn’t not like her. I liked her. Eventually, I just loved her. Hoping for some glimmer of her greenness over the course of the next three books was one of the major things to keep tugging me toward the ends, even as I dreaded leaving Oz behind.

Son of a Witch was good, but perhaps my least favorite of the four novels in The Wicked Years series. I never quite latched onto Liir as a character I was desperate to read about, nor Candle as his consort. I suppose you could say that my obsession skipped a generation, because their daughter became another favorite. In the meantime, I fell in love with The Cowardly Lion, who became Sir Brrr. A Lion Among Men, Book Three, was a treasure. Crushing on a talking Lion. Who knew?

Now, fresh off Out of Oz, I can’t get it out of my head. I hated to leave Oz myself. I swear, it’s a place I’d love to go for an extended holiday, and explore the various cities, lands, counties, and the far reaches that ring the entire place with mystery and awe-filled suspense. The ending was very beautiful, but not quite perfect because it left me feeling set for the next novel in the series, which Maguire has said won’t come.

The Wicked Years novels were a thrilling, dangerous, quirkily romantic ride, and will linger in my mind for decades, I think, just as the movie The Wizard of Oz tends to take up residence in that corner of watchers’ brains reserved for Technicolor musical fantasy.

I am in awe of Gregory Maguire’s talent. The author himself is a word wizard, weaving spells with phrases so beautiful that I have to go back and reread them, often more than once, to savor the rhythm and wordplay. His way of turning familiar words and phrases on their heads is enchanting, beyond anything else I’ve encountered elsewhere. Imagery of moons with tattered clouds drifting across their faces, otherworldly beings and settings that are yet somehow familiar, real people with real feelings and emotional depths, whether they be Human, Animal, animal, or magical beings just beyond our ken.

I got a bonus in addition to the reading experience. I saw Idina Menzel singing on a PBS special for the First Family, and was blown away by Defying Gravity. So I had to get the Wicked Soundtrack with the Original Cast. After that I had to start collecting Idina Menzel’s albums. She has become one of my favorite singers, and I think she possesses one of the great voices of our time.

I also now own The Grimmerie, a big green book patterned on the one in the novels. This one is full of all kinds of information about the Broadway musical adaptation of Wicked, and a wonderful addition to my collection.

While never having had the opportunity to see the musical itself, I’m content in a way, because I would only want to see the original cast, and that train seems to have long left the station.

Fortunately, that’s what YouTube is for. Idina Menzel singing Defying Gravity from Wicked.