Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gregory Maguire Talks "Wicked", Teases Nutcracker... (Drosselmeyer!)

Broadway hit Wicked (which is nearing it's 10th anniversary!) heads to Manila this month, debuting on January 22nd with an Australian cast (you can see a slide show of the Australian production HERE).

As part of promoting the new production there, Gregory Maguire was recently e-interviewed (it's an official thing now) by Philippine newspaper The Star about, not only his thoughts on seeing his book head to the stage (and quickly become "a commotion"*), but also about his writing life and upcoming book plans.

Wicked Elphaba by Laura Mossop
The article also included an excerpt from the Auckland, NZ, show program for Wicked last year which, if you haven't read before is pretty wonderful:
...(Maguire) noted in the souvenir program for the Wicked run in Auckland, New Zealand (which The STAR covered late last year): “When Stephen Schwartz approached me with the notion of turning Wicked into a musical play, I needed much less persuading that I let on,” adding that “… from the opening anthem’s foreboding figure of notes… the score for Wicked respects the book’s tensions and ambiguities” making the figures who once lived solely in his head seem more real,” he added.
To have your book turned into another (professionally produced) art form is pretty fantastic but to feel that the people doing that understand your vision and "get" your work? That's on the rare side and completely thrilling.

Here are some excerpts from the recent e-interview:
Can you recall the exact moment when the idea of Wicked first came to you? 
“No. But I do remember the moment when I realized that the information we did have about the story was incomplete. In one of the songs from the MGM film (The Wizard of Oz), the Cowardly Lion sings, ‘What makes the Hottentot so hot?’ Even at the age of eight, I knew that Hottentots were from Africa, not from Oz: So how could the Cowardly Lion use such a reference? Similarly, when Dorothy sings to the Tin Man, ‘You could be another Lincoln…’ he doesn’t stop the song to ask, ‘What’s a Lincoln?’ They are not telling us the whole story, I said to myself, and scrunched closer to the TV to see what else was going on.” 

You’ve said in interviews that you don’t write anything that doesn’t ask big questions. What’s the biggest question and message readers will take away from Wicked? 
“What is the true nature of evil? Is evil determined by culture, by history, by God or by spirits, by the accident of birth or the behavior of individuals? I can’t say I provide an answer, but this is a question we do well to ask ourselves over and over. It is never an old question.” 
Wicked by Tim Shumate
What’s your daily writing life like? 
“I try to write about five pages a day when I am writing a new novel, and a first draft is usually done in a couple of months. The older I get, the more time I spend on revisions — my newest book has gone through eight drafts. It is out next year. (I’m working on) a book called Egg & Spoon, a fantasy set in Tsarist Russia about the time of Dr. Zhivago, more or less.”
(By the way - the projected date for that book's release is still "sometime during Fall 2014".)

And now for the news that had me probably more excited than I should be, especially since it's still in the "vague idea" stage:
If there’s another classic tale you’d want to give a “wicked” treatment, what would that be and why? 
“I have been playing with the idea of writing a book called Drosslemeyer, about the godfather who gives Klara the Nutcracker in the story of the same name. I don’t know why I would want to write that. Writing it would give me the answer.”

Drosselmeyer by Artuš Scheiner
Nutcracker (and, in particular, the character of Drosselmeyer) has so much potential to me. Unfortunately it often feels like Clara (Klara?) reaches the Kingdom of Sweets and people fall into a sugary malaise of... nothing.

Only two (that I can think of) interpretations come to mind that attempt to mine Hoffman's story for retelling potential (remembering that this was a whole, literary work, by the way): one is Graeme Murphy's Nutcracker: The Story of Clara for the Australian Ballet, about a Russian dancer, migrating and growing older (available to view on DVD). The other (at almost the opposite end of the scale) is a video made for a college assignment by a student who used Britney Spears' song Toy Soldier (What? Yes - right there with you!) and blended the choreography with images and symbols from the traditional Nutcracker ballet in an attempt to empower girls instead of have them waiting to be rescued. It's actually more successful than it sounds. Yes I was surprised too. (You can click HERE to see it on YouTube if you'd like. It's a much better than average amateur video, especially once it gets started on the song/choreography portions.)

It's bizarre because I always thought Nutcracker could be quite epic. Drosselmeyer is a completely fascinating character, the music is wonderful and well known and it's a tradition for many people to go see Nutcracker at Christmas time so there's an audience already built in.
Nutcracker by Natasha Tabatchikova
But I digress.

You can read the whole fascinating interview HERE (note: sometimes the website has difficulty loading but keep trying, it's worth it). While it's not very lengthy, it packs a lot into a page.

What do you think of Maguire's next fairy tale-based novel consideration?

* Wicked fans will get my reference. :)


  1. Are you still selling your print of Elphaba?

  2. You will need to contact the relevant artist for the answer. The artist name below the image is linked to one of their sites to get you started. Good luck. :)