Wicked was a phenomenon from the start. Theatre audiences were eager to see a musical about the Witches from Oz, and to hear a new Broadway score from Stephen Schwartz, who in the early 1970s, had three musicals (Godspell, Pippin, The Magic Show) exceed 1,000 performances. Opening on Broadway in 2003, the musical became the must-see hit of the season, and immediately went on to be the musical with which everyone who had ever felt marginalized, ostracized, and demonized could identify. Its themes about overcoming adversity and finding pride in our uniqueness spoke to the multitudes.
Fifteen years later, Wicked continues to defy gravity and on Friday, February 9th, it will surpass the musical Oh! Calcutta! To become the 7th longest-running production in Broadway history.
Since opening in 2003, Wicked has been performed in over 100 cities in 15 countries around the world (U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, Germany, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, The Philippines, China, Mexico, and Brazil) and has thus far been translated into six languages: Japanese, German, Dutch, Spanish, Korean, and Portuguese. The musical has amassed over $4.5 billion in global sales and has been seen by nearly 55 million people worldwide. The musical continues to tour successfully across North America. Wicked has also won many awards including a Grammy and Tony Awards.
Wicked is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire and tells the story of Elphaba, the smart and independent young woman whose green-hued skin and remarkable magical powers make her an outcast at her boarding school in the Land of Oz. There she is roomed with the prissy and pretty Glinda and, despite a rocky beginning, the two become best friends. When Elphaba’s growing-powers interest the Wizard of Oz, her star begins to rise. She and Glinda go to him, but Elphaba has a falling out with the wonderful wizard when it is revealed he is a humbug, Turning her into a scapegoat for masking his own deficiencies, Elphaba and Glinda are forced choose different paths, the latter becoming a figurehead in The Wizard’s regime, and the former the notorious Wicked Witch of the West.
Wicked was directed by Joe Mantello, with musical staging by Wayne Cilento and a book by Winnie Holzman. The original Broadway production starred Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, Joel Grey as The Wizard, and Idina Menzel, who won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for originating the role of Elphaba. The musical currently stars Jackie Burns as Elphaba, Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda, Isabel Keating as Madame Morrible, Fred Applegate as The Wizard, Ashley Parker Angel as Fiyero, Jye Frasca as Boq, Kristen Martin as Nessarose and Martin Moran as Dr. Dillamond.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals and maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.
Photo by Joan Marcus.