The Two Different Worlds of Wicked: The Play vs. The Novel

by De’Asia Kamara, North Chicago Community High School, Class of 2017

Wicked. Some people associate this word with evil or cool. When I think of this word, I return to the stunning Broadway musical about the secret friendship between the good witch and the bad witch — an exposure I will never forget. Or I think of the hours I spent with a flashlight, reading the novel that inspired the play, under my blanket in the wee hours of the morning. As I look back at these two distinct versions of Wicked, it seems as if they are two separate worlds, for they are so different. They are different in setting, characters, and theme.

There are more settings in the book than in the play, and the ones that are similar in the book and play are described very differently, like the Emerald City and Elphaba’s lair. In the book, Elphaba’s lair was really a flat that was dingy and old, and the Emerald City was going through a phase of transition. Yet the play describes both settings as magnificent sights. The characters were also modified when turning the book into the play. Many were cut out, like Nanny and Turtle Heart. Others were majorly changed such as Fiyero, who went from the foreign prince who was Elphaba’s secret lover, to the lovable rich teen, adored by all, who left Glinda for Elphaba. The themes differed in the two versions as well:  the book’s theme was more focused on animal rights and equality while the play had a theme of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

When comparing the musical and the book, I found that I have a preference for the musical. I like the musical a little bit better because the theme was something that I and many others could relate to, which made it very inspiring. Plus, it had a lot of cool songs. Yet there are advantages to both media. The book is more detailed and good for those who have enough imagination to take those details and visualize it on their own, like their own self-directed play. The musical is more for those who want to enjoy a show that inspires.

By looking at these differences, I have noticed that when turning the book into the play, the writers had to consider audience and timing. Therefore, they condensed the story by taking out some scenes, but still kept the overall gist of the book. They also made it more family-friendly by changing and cutting out some characters and details as well as modifying the ending. They also made it more relatable by changing the theme and focus.

All in all, I hope you check out Wicked, whether it be the novel or the musical-- whichever suits you. And the next time you think of Wicked, will it be in the normal way or the magical one?

De'Asia enjoyed both the book and the movie--what about you?


  1. Nice review De'Asia and wonderfully written. I have yet to read or see Wicked, but you have convinced me to check the book out at my locally library. Keep up the reading.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts