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The Other Side of the Rainbow

The Other Side of the RainbowBoundfor Broadway, ‘Wicked’ – the best-selling novelby Tufts graduate Gregory Maguire – tells the story of ‘TheWizard of Oz’ from a new perspective: the Wicked Witch ofthe West. SanFrancisco

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.20.03] Most people view The Wizard ofOz as a happily-ever-after fairytale about friendship andself-discovery. But Gregory Maguire was always more intriguedby the darker side of the classic story by L. Frank Baum. Afterreceiving his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tuftsin 1990, Maguire set out write a prequel to The Wizard ofOz, telling the story of how the Wicked Witch of the Westcame to power. Now, the Tufts graduate’s novel – calledWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West– is being optioned by Universal Studios for developmentinto a new Broadway musical by award-winning composer StephenSchwartz.

"I alwaysloved fantasy lands - Never-Neverland, Narnia…. But Oz alwaysseemed a little thin to me,” Maguire told New Orleans’Times-Picayune. “I always wondered what it wouldtake to make it a thicker, richer kind of place. We never reallyknew where it came from. Baum wasn't really interested in creatinga whole culture."

In Wicked,Maguire fills in the pieces missing from original Oz story. Takingthe point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West, the Tufts graduatedetails what life was like along the yellow brick road beforethe cyclone swept Dorothy’s house into Munchkinland.

“Gregoryhad the extremely clever idea of telling the story of the WickedWitch of the West – how a little green Oz girl named Elphabagrew up to be the greatest villain in the land,” Schwartzsaid in an interview. “I often like to take familiar charactersor stories and look at them from a different point of view, soyou can understand why I am so attracted to this idea.”

Schwartz– best known for composing the music for shows like Pippin,Godspell, and Children of Eden – cameup with the idea for adapting Wicked into a musical immediatelyafter reading Maguire’s novel.

"Iknew I had to do it," Schwartz told the San FranciscoChronicle. "And I knew it had to be a stage musical."

Other membersof the creative team also embraced the Tufts graduate’sbook – including Winnie Holzman, best known for her workon acclaimed television series like My So-Called Life,thirtysomething, and Once and Again.

"Yearsbefore [Schwartz] asked me to do it, I had bought the book andimmediately called my agent and asked for them to look into therights," Holzman – who adapted the novel -- told theModesto Bee. "I had only read the back of the bookand I was so intrigued by what the book was about – takingthis extreme figure of iconic wickedness and making her the heroine."

Indeed, whenthe novel was first published in 1995, critics raved about Maguire’sability to add new layers of fantasy to a timeless classic –including noted author John Updike, who called Wicked“an amazing novel” in an article in The New Yorker.

“Maguireis pretty adept at playing both sides of the legend,” reportedthe Chronicle. “He pleases Oz-ophiles by throwingin characters and references to episodes from some of the 13 otherOz books Baum wrote and to parts of the first book omitted fromthe film.”

Musical theaterenthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting the musical mounting ofWicked, which is scheduled for a Broadway opening inOctober.

“Allof the perfectly crafted conflicts and accomplishments of Maguire’sWicked will only be heightened by the emotional additionof Schwartz’s supremely orchestrated music,” saidSchwartz fan Brian Altman in an interview on the composer’swebsite.

The pre-Broadwaytryout of the musical opened in San Francisco last week and receivedrave reviews in publications around the country – many ofwhich specifically praised Maguire’s ingenuity.

“Theconcept is irresistible, and it was imaginatively worked out inchildren's author Maguire's crossover tome,” reported Variety.

The addeddimension of music and dance expands upon the themes in the Tuftsgraduate’s novel.

“NovelistMaguire's aim was to enrich a story we thought we knew by addingcomplications and extenuating factors,” reported the OaklandTribune. “For the musical, book writer Holzman andcomposer/lyricist Schwartz have remained true to that idea buthave taken it further.”

And the resultsseem to suggest that Wicked may be headed for Broadway success

“Wicked,the Broadway-bound alternative-Oz musical…is as bright,wittily conceived and original as an investor's dream,”reported the Chronicle. “There's a great deal toenjoy in the tryout run being presented in the Best of Broadwayseries, and moments of sheer magic.”

In additionto its talented creative team, the musical features an all-starcast led by Idina Menzel – who appeared in the originalBroadway company of Rent – as Elphaba and TonyAward-winning musical comedy actress Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda.

“Filledwith more talent than you'd see in a half-dozen shows on New York's45th Street, the show has the sort of promise that could easilyturn it from memorable to classic,” reported the ContraCosta Times.

The actorsthemselves couldn’t agree more.

“It’sa project I really believe in,” Chenoweth told The NewYork Times. “I think that people will like it becauseit’s characters that they know but that they don’tknow, if that makes any sense.”

Maguire’sother adult novels include Lost and Confessions ofan Ugly Stepsister. The latter offers a darker take on thetraditional Cinderella story and was adapted by Disney into amade-for-television movie last year.


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