Credits: Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman.
Summary: Based on “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” a best-selling-book by Gregory Maguire (1995), the musical tells the “untold story” of the witches of Oz: Glinda the Good, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Broadway Premiere: Opened in 2003 and still running (!); the original cast included Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, and Joel Grey as the Wizard.
National Tours: To date, there have been two national tours: one in 2005, and another one that started in 2009 and is still on-going.
International: In addition to the national tours, Wicked has spawned international versions in Japan, Australia, Germany, Mexico, South Korea, Scotland, and London’s West End.
Broadway: Nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2004. Won 3, including Best Lead Actress in a Musical for Idina Menzel. Wicked was predicted to win the Tony for Best Musical, but it lost to Avenue Q in a surprising upset.
Why This Musical: When Wicked opened on Broadway, the reviews were mixed. Critics praised the production, but dismissed the songs and the simplistic plot (the book was much darker and more thematically complex). However, the commercial response was incredibly positive, leading to record-breaking success at the theatre box office. Wicked has been one of the most lucrative productions on Broadway, and it’s currently the 11th-longest running Broadway show in history. The musical’s success can be attributed not only to the fantastic visuals (sets, costumes, lighting, and special effects) but also to the two main characters—Glinda and Elphaba—who stand out above everyone else, with show-stopping numbers that showcase their vocal talents. The themes of the story—friendship, girl power, and staying true to oneself—also resonate with viewers. Even though Elphaba has a love interest, her most important relationship in the story is with her frenemy/ally Glinda. The show has been hugely popular with women, including repeat fans who have spent hundreds of dollars seeing it over and over again!
My Connection: I am a huge Wizard of Oz fan from way back—I’ve probably seen the original 1939 movie a dozen times, and I have some of the original Land of Oz books, which I inherited from my Grandmother. When Maguire’s book was first published, I rushed to read it, but I had mixed feelings. The author did a great job with the Wicked Witch’s backstory, but a lot of the book was too dark and ambiguous for my taste. The first time I heard the cast recording of the musical was in 2005, and it stuck with me. When the show came to Chicago in 2007, I went with my daughter, who was 10 at the time, and we both loved it. Although I’d taken her to a lot of high school and community theatre musicals before that, Wicked was the first large-scale production she’d ever seen. Wicked is one of those shows that I consider a “gateway musical”—an accessible production filled with catchy songs, strong themes, and great visuals—that can spark a lifelong passion for musical theatre.
Where to See It: Right now, the only way to see Wicked is in the theatre. If you’re in New York City, the show is still playing on Broadway at the Gershwin Theatre, and discounted tickets are often available. The touring version also comes to bigger cities on a regular basis; the most recent tour is scheduled to appear in Milwaukee on Nov. – 14. Because of the show’s continued popularity on Broadway, the stock and amateur licensing rights have never been made available, which means you can’t see it in your local high school or community theatre. Over the years, rumors have floated around the Internet about a possible movie version, but nothing has been confirmed. The cast recording from the show is available on iTunes.
“Dancing Through Life”
“As Long as You’re Mine”
Final Thoughts: If the touring version comes to your town, Wicked is worth seeing. The sets, costumes, and special effects are marvelous, and it makes for a great mother-daughter theatre experience.