I’m not sure why I torment myself in this manner, but I have signed up for regular emails advertising big events and shows that will be coming to Auckland. This is with the clear understanding that I won’t actually ever GO to them, but once in a while something arrives that makes me stop and think, Maybe THIS will be the one thing I save up my 50 cent pieces for.
And Wicked, the musical based on Gregory Maguire’s bestselling book, may be that one thing. I saw it in Melbourne a couple of years ago, and absolutely loved it, so I’m already thinking about how much time I will need to spend looking under the couch cushions for loose change.
Most of us know the original 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, and some of us are aware that it was based on a novel written in 1900 by L Frank Baum. Fewer people know that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was only one of a series of over 15 Oz-based books written by Baum, or have any idea just how pervasive the Oz story has become in some literary and cultural circles. A bit like Alice in recent times, the wizard, the good and wicked witches, the flying monkeys, the yellow brick road, AND Dorothy and her little dog too, have appeared in all sorts of places, spaces and forms.
I personally know all the words to Elton John’s 1973 hit Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; will never forget the 1978 movie The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson; and have come across innumerable booky references to Baum’s characters and worlds, most notably for me in Stephen King’s epic gunslinger fantasy series The Dark Tower. We had the Disney version at home too (See the picture! Hear the record! Read the book!), and I can still belt out that classic and emotionally inspiring song, “Ding Dong! The witch is dead!” with very little prompting.
And while I have to admit that (again, like Alice and her Wonderland crew) the story and characters still leave me feeling a little uneasy and unsettled, even (quite frankly) a bit creeped-out, there’s no denying that Baum’s world and work has left an enduring mark on our culture, and one that looks to be continuing for some time.