This week, I went to see the musical Wicked. There was much to enjoy, but I had some reservations, mainly because I tried to read the book, and didn't get very far. I didn't find one character I liked or sympathized with or cared about. For me, this was an insurmountable problem, so I stopped reading.
Fortunately, the musical skips most of the beginning, where I stopped reading, and the first half of the show was really quite enjoyable. I enjoyed the second half for quite a bit, too. I especially liked the explanations for the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow.
But. But, but, but... Just because I write romance novels doesn't mean I think every story should have a "happy" ending, and in this case, the writers reached for one that didn't work for me. (And it isn't the same as the book's, I understand.)
If you're planning on seeing the show and don't want to be "spoiled", read no farther, because there is a "surprise" at the end of the show and I'm going to talk about it. First, I'll leave some space, and what better way to do that than a picture of, oh, say, my upcoming beautiful cover?
Okay, the set-up is this: The (future) Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, falls in love with the handsome Fiyero. Glinda, (future) Good Witch of the North, wants Fiyero for herself. But Fiyero winds up falling in love with Elphaba, getting involved in her political cause and running off with her. Just after their tender ballad, they are found by the police. Fiyero enables Elphaba to flee, but he's caught, bound and carried away. Since she can't free him, Elphaba does a spell that...turns him into the Scarecrow, so he can't be killed. Now this, I thought, was neat.
However, the story also includes what happens after Dorothy's house crashed on Elphaba's sister (which was the villains' way to trap her), up to and including the melting. But lo! That was just a trick, so Elphaba and Fiyero/Scarecrow can live happily ever after, albeit not in Oz.
Why didn't this ending work for me, professional romance writer?
Because we've seen the Wicked Witch in action (in my case, many, many times). We've seen her set the Scarecrow on fire and more than once. She's going to kill a kid for a pair of shoes, fer pete's sake. The woman is wicked.
What would I have done differently? I would have had the love triangle, same backstory, and same reason for Elphaba to turn her lover into a scarecrow. BUT I would have had the Scarecrow left with no memory of his past with Elphaba, including his love for her (he does go to the Wizard for a brain, after all). I would have had Glinda convince him Elphaba is totally evil. Elphaba's saved his life, but she's lost his love. Worse, now he's terrified of her and believes her evil incarnate. I would have ended the story with the villains conjuring up the tornado that brings Dorothy from Kansas and killing her sister, so that Elphaba's completely alone in the world, the victim of forces that have taken away everyone she loves. That's what makes her wicked. That turns her into the bitter, vengeful witch we know. So she's still going to do all those things she does, but now we know why, and can have some sympathy for her.
Maybe that's how the book ends. I'm tempted to find out.
But would that version be as much of a crowd-pleaser in a musical version? Probably not. It's a musical, after all, not an opera.