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Gregory Maguire on Wickedness Post-Bush

Wicked uses its magical powers for good – like turning the City hall dome green for opening week. When last we spoke to author Gregory Maguire, (who wrote the novel which became the Broadway musical), he was contemplating just how much longer the magic would last.

As a play that became an accidental cautionary tale about the Bush administration, Wicked resonated with the 69% of Americans who would come to disapprove of George Bush’s job performance. But now it seems the country has turned a page on the Bush years, the focus is on the promises of President Obama. I asked Gregory Maguire whether Wicked will lose its wallop in the coming years.


EM: Can the play hold up without a scapegoating figurehead in the White House?

GM: Maybe there will be a drying up of interest, maybe part of the nourishment was that in some ways it’s a finger in the eye of a callous and unthinking administration, time will tell wont it?


EM:  Obviously you wrote Wicked long before the “smoking gun as mushroom cloud” speech, before the conflation of Hussein and Bin Laden and all the rest. But do you think the echoes to the current politics helped get the play produced?

GM: 9-11 stoked up a certain kind of patriotism that promote a blindness and muteness among citizens and the more that I saw what was happening -- that we would be living under a spell for 7 years -- the less I believed that Wicked could ever get funded and ever get backers, it seemed so antithetical to what I was observing in the country.

At the stage reading, I was afraid that Wicked would require a suspension of belief in hierarchy in a time when people were clinging to the ropes of the White House ship and believing everything that was said even if it looked patently stupid.

EM: But apparently, shiny happy new President or no, there are plans to make this “finger in the eye” play into Wicked the movie (of the musical of the book about the movie and the book.)

GM: Universal plans to film Wicked the Musical for a 2014  release, but the timing is very much in the air. I also sold the rights to ABC TV to make a non-musical television version that will not be based on Winnie Holtzman’s script.

EM: Even without the political elements, Wicked is a great story about the friendship between two girls.

GM: There's no arguing that that is a very appealing aspect of the play and a good argument why people want to see it again and again.  And it’s not just about young women learning to the depths of their affection for one another, its also about women -- or any disenfranchised citizen—learning their relationship in a system of power. So should the interests in the political aspects of the play dry up, there are other things in the play that continue to make it pertinent.