Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”, spoke at Miami University on Monday, Feb. 14. Maguire’s 1995 novel inspired the hit Broadway musical “Wicked,” as well as three other New York Times bestselling novels in “The Wicked Years” series.
Maguire’s lecture, which is the second of the 2022 University Lecture Series, dove deeper into his background as a writer and his lifelong love for “The Wizard of Oz.”
One of seven children, Maguire hails from a “non-prosperous” family, where he and his siblings were only allowed a half-hour of television each week.
“A library card was as good as a credit card,” Maguire said. “I had nothing else but books.”
Of the seven Maguire children, six went on to become writers. Their father, a journalist, encouraged the children to pursue writing from a young age.
JS Bragg, assistant director for student organizations and lecture series committee member for 16 years, spoke to Maguire’s repeated commitment to Miami.
“[Maguire] is someone that ever since we brought him in 2008, we’ve said, ‘We need someone else like him with how dynamic and amazing he was on the stage,” Bragg said. “So it made sense just to bring him.”
Lana Kay Rosenberg, another lecture series committee chair, believes Maguire is still a relevant speaker for student audiences today.
“‘Wicked’ is still not only an important piece of literature, but many people know of it,” Rosenberg said. “When they think of musical theater, they think of ‘Wicked.’”
Maguire’s novel is the basis for the upcoming film “Wicked” starring Tony award winner Cynthia Erivo and pop icon Ariana Grande.
Maguire could not reveal too much about the upcoming “Wicked” film project, a musical movie produced by Universal Studios. However, Maguire did speak to Grande’s role in the film.
“Glinda is going to be played by Ariana Grande, which is a casting decision that surprised me, not because of her interest in the role or her ability to sing,” Maguire said. “But I don’t think of her as a natural comedian, and I think that role really requires somebody with a lot of comic spark.”
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Jon M. Chu, director of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “In The Heights” has signed on to direct the film. Maguire is excited to see Chu’s artistic vision for the film come to life.
“I went to see “In the Heights,” precisely because he had just been named the director, and I wanted to see what his hand was like, especially in music numbers, and I thought he was terrific,” Maguire said. “I thought it was great. I had never seen it on the stage, but I thought the movie musical was really, really, very strong, so I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Alexa Spoerle, a sophomore psychology and English literature major, was approached to give Maguire’s introduction because of her role on the Honor’s Student Advisory Board (HSAB.)
“I think he’s an amazing storyteller,” Spoerle said. “He was really nice … He’s just an overall great guy and I feel like he has a gift for writing and telling stories.”
Ruby Schwan, a sophomore music, mathematics and statistics major, jumped at the opportunity to hear Maguire speak about “Wicked.”
“I’ve seen “Wicked” before, and I’d always loved it … It’s a really fun and cool story,” Schwan said. “I saw that he was coming and thought it’d be interesting to see the background of everything, and how it all came to be.”
Schwan was not disappointed by Maguire’s lecture.
“I played the music in high school, when I was in band, and that kind of sparked my love for the story,” Schwan said. “It’s a really fun story, and it takes me back.”
Luke Macy contributed additional reporting to this story.