‘Wicked’ Has Bewitched Its Way to the Big Screen
We'll all be travelling to Oz sometime soon-ish.
We all know how the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz goes—how Dorothy gets swept away from her home in Kansas to the dazzlingly colorful land of Oz, accidentally becoming a hero when her house happens to land on the Wicked Witch of the East. And how the Wizard from the Emerald City tasks her to also kill the Wicked Witch of the West before he agrees to send her back home.
With her iconic green skin and her flying monkeys, the Wicked Witch of the West has always been one of the most fascinating characters in L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel—so it should be no surprise that she’s become a protagonist in her own right in the Broadway blockbuster Wicked, one of the most successful musicals of the past decade.
What is Wicked about?
Based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, Wicked chronicles the life of young Elphaba, her ambitions of working with the great Wizard himself, and her years at Shiz University, where she meets a cast of characters who will inevitably shape her life—including Galinda (known as Glinda), her roommate-turned-rival-turned best friend; and Fiyero, a party-loving prince who captures the affections of both women.
Wicked debuted on Broadway in May 2003 and was an immediate success thanks to show-stopping numbers that have become pop culture staples, like Elphaba and Glinda’s duet “For Good,” Elphaba’s 11 o’clock number “No Good Deed,” and of course, the glorious Act 1 finale (and signature song of the entire musical), “Defying Gravity.”
And pretty much since that debut, there has been speculation about a possible Hollywood adaptation—an adaptation that is finally going to see the light of day in the very near future.
Who’s in it?
As you can imagine, when it comes to such a beloved piece of media, the issue of casting has always been of particular interest whenever there’s talk of adapting Wicked for the big screen. So predictably, when news broke of who exactly was taking on the roles of Elphaba and Glinda, fans were divided. There were those who were ecstatic, and those who felt a little skeptical—nothing out of the ordinary, really.
Cynthia Erivo, already a Tony award-winner for the role of Celie in The Color Purple, will step into Elphaba’s green skin and take on her iconic songs. Starring opposite Erivo as Shiz’s most perfect girl Glinda, we’ll see Ariana Grande, pop icon extraordinaire and big Wicked fan—as evidenced by her performance of “The Wizard and I” for the show’s 15th anniversary ceremony.
While both actresses definitely have the vocal talent to take on their respective roles, some fans have expressed doubt about their ages—both Erivo and Grande are somewhat out of the college age range of Elphaba and Glinda, who are attending Shiz University when they meet.
Then again, the now-blonde Ariana Grande was endorsed by the original Broadway Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth, when her casting was announced. And Cynthia Erivo told Entertainment Weekly back in September 2022 that she’s already practicing for “Defying Gravity,” so it seems like things are shaping up to be very good in the lead actors department.
As for the cast of characters surrounding Elphaba and Glinda, the movie’s IMDb page offers a recap of the various casting announcements made in recent months: Bridgerton’s very own Viscount Anthony, Jonathan Bailey, will dance through life as Fiyero. Elphaba’s younger sister Nessarose, a.k.a. Nessa, will be played by Marissa Bode, who uses a wheelchair like her fictional counterpart. Ethan Slater will take on the role of Boq, a Munchkin boy who attends Shiz University with the rest of the gang, while Aaron Teoh Guan Ti will star as Avaric, a friend of Boq’s. The movie will also introduce two of Glinda’s Shiz classmates, Pfannee and ShenShen, who will be played by Bowen Yang and Bronwyn James, respectively.
Speaking of Shiz University, soon-to-be Academy Award nominee (if not winner, honestly) Michelle Yeoh is set to star as Madam Morrible, the school’s headmistress and a close advisor of the Wizard himself—who will be played by none other than Jeff Goldblum, hopefully serving his best “Grandmaster of Sakaar” attitude. Colin Michael Carmichael will take on the role of Doctor Nikidik, a Shiz professor, and Keala Settle completes the cast announced (so far) as the mysterious Miss Coddle.
Who’s directing the Wicked movie?
At the helm of the entire production is director Jon M. Chu of both Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights fame. It was Chu who announced both the casting of Elphaba and Glinda, as well as the decision to split the story into two—meaning that there will actually be a Wicked: Part One and a Wicked: Part Two, ensuring that all the important plot beats and songs can be included without having to cut out too much material.
“We have so many exciting things to share but for now I’m giving you one … or two, rather,” Chu wrote in a Twitter note posted last April. “Here’s what happened: as we prepared this production over the last year, it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to wrestle the story of Wicked into a single film without doing some real damage to it. As w tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years. So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one Wicked movie but two!!!! With more space, we can tell the story of Wicked as it was meant to be told while bringing even more depth and surprise to the journeys of these beloved characters.”
Chu continued: “Cynthia, Ariana, and I—and all of the cast and crew—pledge to create nothing less than an experience that honors its foundation for all the fans who’ve waited for this movie, and to offer a thrilling, fantastical world full of dynamic characters that invites in those who are unfamiliar.” That will definitely be easier to achieve considering that a good part of the original creative team is also working on the movie—namely producer Marc Platt, as well as composer Stephen Schwartz and book writer Winnie Holzman, who are both adapting the script for the screen.
Are there new songs?
Indeed, the longer runtime will be filled in part by new songs, which Schwartz is writing specifically for this new screen adaptation—something that he confirmed with Playbill all the way back in 2016, when the movies were still deep in the pre-production stage. He specified that the new songs will number four in total, with three being completely original and one that was cut from the Broadway production.
So when can we see Wicked?
As of right now, Wicked: Part One is scheduled for a release on December 25, 2024, while the second part is set to follow a year later, on December 25, 2025. So here’s to just a little less than two more years of waiting—with plenty of news, teasers and trailers to come in the meantime.
(via: EW, featured image: Universal Stage Production)
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