New books on “Wicked”

by Carol de Giere on September 1, 2011

Now that my Stephen Schwartz biography, Defying Gravity, has been out for three years and you’ve all read it (right? –, it’s time for new material for Schwartz and Wicked enthusists. So I’ll report on three books you could read this fall. 

Wicked: A Musical Biography

Wicked: A musical biography My friend Paul Laird wrote a book that came out this summer. Paul is a professor of Musicology at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses in music history, musical theater. His book is called Wicked: A Musical Biography -  Wicked: A Musical Biography.

He drew extensively from the 150 pages on Wicked in my Defying Gravity (giving me credit, of course), as well as The Schwartz Scene newsletter.  He extended the scope beyond my ending point (which was the show’s opening on Broadway). Chapter 8 of Wicked: A Musical Biography covers what happend to the musical after the Broadway opening, including a sizeable section about the London production.

Professor Laird approached Stephen Schwartz for his own interviews, asking questions that a musicoligist would ask. He also interviewed Winnie Holzman (who wrote Wicked’s “book” or script) and explores the Schwartz/Holzman collaboration in a chapter “Collaboration and Creation.” Schwartz gave him access to handwritten music drafts of various versions of songs, some of which he includes as images in the book. In his chapter “The Music and Lyrics of Wicked” readers will find comparisons of versions of the score and playscript.

When I wrote Defying Gravity, I used a “narrative nonfiction” style so that readers would feel like they were present at the time Stephen Schwartz and others were working on Wicked. (Narrative nonfiction is a style used for books like Three Cups of Tea or The Devil in the White City.) Professor Laird writes in a consciously evaluative style offering a careful study of what happened as Schwartz and Holzman pieced together the Broadway musical Wicked while adapting Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked for the stage.

Also beyond the scope of my book, Laird provides a chapter called “Wicked in Context” that places the themes of Wicked in context of musical theatre history.  And he includes a chapter covering orchestrations for Broadway and the differences between this and touring productions that use a smaller orchestra.

Wicked: A Musical Biography may be most useful for students or faculty members writing papers, for composers who want details about Schwartz’s subtle adjustments to his score over time, and for fans who want to collect everything about the show.

Gregory Maguire’s Out of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years

Out of Oz - The final volume of the Wicked series by Gregory Maguire

Out of Oz

Gregory has really outdone himself with this final book in his Wicked series–a series that began with the book that launched the musical. This new one to be released November 1st is listed at nearly 600 pages. It’s available for pre-order in hardcover, Kindle, audio, and large print. Out of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years 

Maguire has said that this novel focuses on Glinda. As he told me for an issue of The Schwartz Scene, “all I can say about it before it is released in, I hope, the fall of 2011, is that it opens with Lady Glinda under house arrest….”

The blurbs offer enticement: “a thrilling and compulsively readable saga in which the fate of Oz is decided at last. . . The stirring, long-awaited conclusion to the bestselling series begun with Wicked, Out of Oz is a magical journey rife with revelations and reversals, reprisals and surprises—the hallmarks of the unique imagination of Gregory Maguire.”

Maguire fans can now “Friend” Gregory on Facebook for future updates. Also, to listen to a 30-minute audio segement of the book, go to excerpt on a website:

Unnaturally Green

Felicia Ricci, former Elphaba Standby in the San Francisco Company of Wicked, has announced her memoir: UNNATURALLY GREEN: One Girl’s Wild, Impossible, Pit-Stain-Filled Adventure Along a Yellow Brick Road Less Traveled. Here’s a description of this book that is due out in October: “From her audition to the show’s closing, to every moment in between, Felicia takes you behind the scenes of her first professional theater job (ever!) as she understudies Elphaba, Wicked’s lead character.”

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