Earlier this week I went to see the musical Wicked on Broadway for the first time. I’ve been vaguely aware of the show since it premiered in 2003 and knew it was based on the Gregory Maguire book of the same name. I’ve read about Wicked, but never read the book itself. Still, I was familiar with the plot enough going in that I was put off a bit by the many, many liberties the musical takes. In fact, the stage plot has very little to do with the plot of the book at all, mainly taking the characters and turning them into archetypes while morphing the story into a typical geek girl and popular girl grow to understand each other and discover their personal power tale. Also, they fight over a guy.
Adaptations are generally a touchy subject. Many original creators bristle when asked about adaptations and derivations of their work while others just shrug and note that they were paid well to have their story and characters mangled. Audiences reactions vary depending on the medium, the nature of the adaptation, and the depth of their love for or ignorance of the original.
Take the original ending to Little Shop of Horrors our Video Vicar pointed out earlier this week. It’s the same as the successful stage play’s ending, just acted out instead of just described. But test audiences, who had probably never seen the play, hated the fact that Audrey II killed the protagonist and his love interest. The director, Frank Oz, had a theory as to why: “In a stage play, you kill the leads and they come out for a bow — in a movie, they don’t come out for a bow, they’re dead. And the audience loved those people, and they hated us for it.”
Changes in medium obviously have a huge effect on adaptations. But is it preferable for the second or third medium painstakingly recreate even the tiniest details of the original, as the director and producers of Watchmen seem to be doing?