Oz in the News 9.30.21

‘They changed my ending, I felt aghast’: how we made Wicked “I’d played with the story of The Wizard of Oz since my childhood in the US when I would arrange theatrical events in our back yard. I was the impresario. My brothers, sisters and friends were assigned roles and we’d have The Wicked Witch of the West fall in love with Captain Hook.

When I moved to London in the early 1990s, I was rather lonely and isolated. Then the terrible murder of James Bulger happened and it was discovered that children had killed him. Everyone was asking: how could those boys be so villainous? Were they born evil or were there circumstances that pushed them towards behaving like that? It propelled me back to the question of evil that bedevils anybody raised Catholic.

No one says how The Wicked Witch of the West became as she was. She’s just bad. I decided to tell her life as if Dickens was doing it. My novel would start with her birth, end with her death and have a 19th-century moral urgency. Within the first couple of days I got her name. I wanted to pay homage to The Wizard of Oz novelist L Frank Baum: LFB – Elphaba! It’s clean and simple, but not pretty, and with connotations of otherworldliness. Even though I didn’t anticipate that Wicked would become a musical, I thought Elphaba had to be able to sing in the novel. When writing, I cast the characters in my head so I could picture them: for Elphaba I cast kd lang.”

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