Saturday, December 05, 2009

From book to stage or film

We were in New York City for Thanksgiving (saw the Macy's Parade up close and personal!) and saw "Wicked" while we were there.  It was WONDERFUL!  Fabulous singers, interesting set design, good acting, great acoustics in the Gershwin Theater.  I was familiar with the play only from the soundtrack, which I love, being a singer myself.  I highly recommend the show.  It's great fun!

What I don't recommend is reading the book "Wicked" before seeing the play.  They bear nearly no resemblance to each other.  Those of you who know me at all know that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, so I know that plays/films and the novels they come from often are quite different, but "Wicked" is SO different!  Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) is goodhearted in both of them until fate turns her around, but in the book, she's a political activist of sorts, fighting for the rights of Animals (sentient animals) among other things.  That isn't the case at all in the play, which is much more about the friendship between Elphaba and Galinda/Glinda.  The personalities and motivations of several of the characters is hugely different between the book and the play.

I have read a quote from the book's author, Gregory Maguire, that he's very pleased with how they interpreted his story in the play, and I'm sure it's more profitable as a play the way they wrote it than it would be if they'd stuck closer to the book.  I think they did the right thing in how they reinterpreted the story for the play.

Since seeing "Wicked" on stage and reading the story, I am not as critical as I used to be of Steve Kloves, who did the screenplays for all but one of the Harry Potter films.  Kloves has kept his screenplays (the ones we've seen so far anyway - all but "Deathly Hallows") much closer to the books, and his characters, except for Hermione in several of the films, have all  been very close to what J.K. Rowling wrote to start with.  (Kloves uses Hermione as an "information dump" in several pictures, often giving her lines that were the boys' lines in the books, which annoys me greatly.  There's no benefit in her saying those lines rather than the boys that I can see, and by doing this, Kloves has made me really dislike Hermione - which is not Emma Watson's or J.K. Rowling's fault.  Kloves gets all the blame for this.)

I haven't done close comparisons between books and the plays or films that resulted from them in quite a while, other than my obvious attention to the Potter books and films.  Seeing "Wicked" and then reading it really made me wonder if authors who see their work performed on stage or in film think "Why didn't I think of that" or "Why didn't I do it that way?" or "I'm glad they paid me a bundle for this because I can't stand what they've done to it!" 

J.K. Rowling has every reason to be pleased both artistically and financially with the results of her collaboration with Kloves, Warner Brothers, David Heyman, et al.  Maguire seems pleased with what they did with "Wicked," but the changes are so vast, I just have to wonder how he really felt when he first saw it? 

When I write, I see my stories as films in my head.  If any of them make it to the stage or film, will they resemble what I wrote at all?  And how will I feel about it?

If you want to read about the process of going from book to stage, there's a book called "Wicked, the Grimmerie" which tells how it went from idea to novel to screenplay that didn't work to play that did.  It's interesting reading.  I bought a used copy of it on Amazon and have greatly enjoyed it.

If and when I have to face one of my stories as a film or play, I'll let you know what I think about the changes they made!

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