By Andrew Gans
11 Nov 2004
Wicked, based on Gregory Maguire's novel of the same name, had been optioned as a movie, and a screenplay was completed by 1998. But Wicked co-producer Marc Platt told AP that "it wasn't satisfying. It wasn't working as something cinematic." Platt says that it was the addition of Stephen Schwartz's music (and the decision to head to Broadway instead of the screen) that "lifted Wicked for a couple of reasons. One, it's Oz and much of our recollection of Oz has to do with the film ["The Wizard of Oz"] that had music in it. Two, it's also a fantasy, and music can take you to a different place in a different way.
"And lastly, Stephen was interested in veering from the book and telling the story of the two girls and their relationship, which required a lot of inner dialogue. In film, it's very hard to get at inner dialogue. . . . In a musical, a character can turn to the audience and say or sing what's on her mind or in her heart."
Wicked, which turns every Oz myth inside out, explores the early life of the witches of Oz: Glinda and Elphaba. The two main characters meet at Shiz, a school where both hope to take up sorcery. Glinda is madly popular and Elphaba is, well, green. By a misunderstanding, they wind up roommates and, after an initial period of mutual loathing, begin to learn something about each other. Their life paths continue to intersect through a shared love, entry into the Emerald City and interaction with the Wizard himself. Eventually, their choices and convictions take them on widely different paths.
With a score by Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, Wicked began previews on Broadway Oct. 8, 2003, after a summer tryout at San Francisco's Curran Theatre. When the musical officially opened Oct. 30, 2003, the original cast featured Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Joel Grey as The Wizard, Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible, Norbert Leo Butz as Fiyero, Michelle Federer as Nessarose, Christopher Fitzgerald as Boq and William Youmans as Doctor Dillamand.
Both Chenoweth and Menzel were nominated for Tonys for their performances, with Menzel nabbing the award for Best Actress in a Musical. The musical garnered ten Tony nominations in all, including one for Best Musical. The Oz-themed show also won Tonys for its lavish set (Eugene Lee) and costumes (Susan Hilferty).
Tony winner Menzel continues in her role at the Gershwin, and she is now joined by Jennifer Laura Thompson as Glinda, George Hearn as The Wizard, Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible, Joey McIntyre as Fiyero, Michelle Federer as Nessarose, Christopher Fitzgerald as Boq and William Youmans as Doctor Dillamand.
Wicked plays the Gershwin Theatre, 222 West 51st Street. Tickets are available by calling (212) 307-4100 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.