"The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz": Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth Look Back at Wicked Ten Years Later

By Michael Gioia
24 Oct 2013

Idina Menzel
Photo by Joan Marcus

Taking on some of the best moments on Broadway, however, can be a little intimidating, and both Menzel and Chenoweth admitted to feeling the pre-opening pressure.

"[Director] Joe [Mantello] championed me from the beginning to end and always believed in me, but also put a huge pressure on my shoulders," explained Menzel. "I wanted to do so well for him… There was a time where I was just having a hard day, and he came up to me and said, 'You can do this. You are the f*cking Wicked Witch of the West. You have to believe that you're the sh*t here.' And, I did. I had to just get past some of my neurosis and step into it and stop being afraid, you know. He taught me that."

As for Chenoweth, she initially felt hesitant about entering Oz by bubble. "I was a little nervous just because sometimes I get a little vertigo," she said. "But I didn't have that when I went up the first time… I didn't think there was a better entrance for an actress ever created. So it's kind of hard to follow that, actually! And, [producer] Marc Platt said, 'You come down in a bubble and say, 'It's good to see me, isn't it?' It doesn't get better than that, Kristin.' I'll never forget that."

"I feel silly for saying this," she added, "but I made [co-star] Norbert [Leo Butz] go shopping with me at Macy's once before we opened because when I get nervous I want to shop! Norbert actually accompanied me to Macy's, and I think we laughed the whole time, and we ate at the food court, and then I felt better."

Nerves turned to excitement as the Tony Awards approached, and Chenoweth and Menzel each received a Leading Actress in a Musical nod for their performances as Glinda and Elphaba, respectively, in the show. Above all, the ladies admitted, they were "proud" to be representing two strong women as well as a show celebrating acceptance, friendship and equality on Broadway.

Chenoweth with Carole Shelley
photo by Joan Marcus

"I'm proud that there are two very beautiful, powerful women that are the centers of the story — that it deals with a sisterhood, if you will," said Menzel. "[The Tony Awards were] definitely very, very, very exciting and emotional. I'd worked really hard, and I was up against all of those unbelievable women. I did not think I was going to win, so it was pretty astounding. In fact, I didn't even think about a speech until that morning, and I was crying with my husband the morning of." Menzel's husband, Taye Diggs (who also starred in Wicked, while Butz was on a brief medical leave), helped her prepare.

"He was really helpful," added Menzel, who took home the coveted award that night, "so later on it was really great when I was there and I hit all of my marks with the speech. He was so proud of me."

"That night, I didn't expect to win, but I was hoping for Idina," said Chenoweth of the evening. "I'd seen a lot of the performances [of the season], and they were amazing… But, I have to say, I did want Idina to win. Not only did I want it for her, but I wanted it for our show, and I felt that she was deserving."