"The music Stephen has done—brace yourself. It's wonderful," said Chenoweth, discussing her new stage assignment with Playbill On-Line. The actress said the score does not compare to any of Schwartz's past works, but is a complete departure. "It's a fantasy, but it's all a real show. It's not going to be all spectacle. It's got a lot of heart in it."
The blonde, comic-voiced Chenoweth will play a part many think is tailor made for her: Glinda the Good Witch of the North, the too-good-to-be-true sorceress made famous by Billie Burke in the 1939 film of "The Wizard of Oz." Wicked is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, which purports to tell the true story of Elphaba, "The Wizard of Oz"'s Wicked Witch of the West. Raised in the backwaters of Oz but sent to school in the city, the future Wicked Witch suffers through her dormmate Glinda's prissy behavior, becomes a radical animal rights activist and falls in love.
Rent's original Maureen, Idina Menzel, will play Elphaba. Norbert Leo Butz will portray the handsome young Fiyero in Wicked, Carole Shelley is the headmistress of the school attended by both witches, Madame Morrible; and, said Chenoweth, Robert Morse (How to Succeed...., Tru) is all by certain to play the Wizard.
Chenoweth is frank about the fact that Glinda is not the focus of the piece. She said she has an opening song and two duets with Menzel. "I do wish I were singing more," said Chenoweth, "but the reason I took this role was for the acting. It is a wonderful role. Very funny and very dark. Glinda's not so good. It's what makes her good in the end—that's the transition you'll see."
The musical will begin performances May 27 at San Francisco's Curran Theatre and run there until June 29. It will then take a break and officially open in New York on Oct. 30, probably at one of Broadway's biggest houses, though not theatre has been announced. Chenoweth is keeping busy in several mediums these days. Her Marian the Librarian will be seen when Disney's new television film of The Music Man airs on ABC on Feb. 16. She has been offered a role in City Center Encores!' concert staging of Sigmund Romberg's The New Moon, scheduled to run March 27-30. She will workshop the musical Little Marry Sunshine with Craig Bierko at the Roundabout Theatre Company. And, in the time she has remaining, she is recording a new album for Sony Classical, inspired by the folk and gospel music that surrounded her as she grew up in her native Oklahoma. It will be released around the time Wicked opens on Broadway.