‘Wicked’ Movie Casting: The Talented Stars Heading to Oz
With the latest casting announcements for the Wicked movie, theatre nerds everywhere rejoiced. Fans of the hit Broadway musical Wicked have been waiting impatiently for a movie adaptation since 2012.
We were originally promised a release in 2019, so it’s high time Hollywood takes us to Oz. Let’s take a deep dive into the history of the hit Broadway show, the two stars that will lead the production, and why we’ve had to wait so long.
The History of Wicked
Almost everyone has seen The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 film starring Judy Garland has stood the test of time and still remains one of the classic, beloved family films.
In 1995, author Gregory Maguire took the Frank L. Baum classic and penned Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Any book written before 1923 is in the public domain, so Baum’s 1900 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was available for adaptation. He went on to write two more books in the series, but the first is what inspired the Broadway musical.
Fun fact! The name Elphaba is a play on Frank L. Baum’s initials.
Stephen Schwartz, writer of Pippin and soundtrack artist for movies like The Prince of Egypt and Enchanted, transformed the book into a musical along with the librettist Winnie Holzman.
Wicked on Broadway
Although it initially met mixed reviews, Wicked has gone on to become one of the most popular and longest-running musicals in Broadway history. It’s been nominated for at least one award every year from its opening in 2003 to 2017, totaling 64 nominations and winning 33 so far.
In its first year, it was nominated for nine Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Actress (both Menzel and Chenoweth were nominated, with Menzel taking home the title), and best original score.
Idina Menzel, best known for her performance in the Broadway show Rent and voicing Elsa in Frozen 1 and Frozen 2, played Elphaba. Elphaba is widely regarded as one of the most difficult roles in modern theatre.
Kristin Chenoweth brought Glinda the Good Witch to life, and that part is no picnic either. The bubbly but complex personality is difficult to maintain for the duration of the show, and casually floating through lyrical belts that go as high as F6 is a feat not many actresses can pull off.
The Wicked Movie: Major Casting Announcements
Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo took to Instagram to announce their casting as Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Grande and Erivo have made it clear they’re ecstatic to work together. Their posts feature the flowers they received from each other with screenshots of their video calls.
In the post shared by Grande, the card in her gorgeous, bright pink floral arrangement read “Pink Goes Good With Green. Congratulations Miss A. The Part Was Made For You. I Look Forward To Sharing This Musical Journey With You. Love, Cynthia.”
Erivo’s pink and green arrangement had a handwritten card from Grande that read “Dear Cynthia, Honored doesn’t even begin to cover it. I cannot wait to hug you. See you in Oz. All my love, Ari.”
About Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande is best known for her success as an American pop star. She has produced chart-toppers like “Problem,” “Dangerous Woman,” “Side to Side,” and “Thank U, Next,” which peaked at number 1 for seven weeks.
While many believe the show Victorious was what started Grande’s career, she made her premiere in the limelight on Broadway first. She appeared in the Broadway musical 13 as Charlotte and understudied for Patrice.
This is also not her first encounter with the character of Glinda. She first met Kristin Chenoweth, the star that shaped the role on Broadway, when Grande was only 7. They met at a backstage meet and greet and Chenoweth actually gifted her one of her Glinda wands.
They started working together professionally when they both starred in Hairspray Live! in 2016 with Grande as Penny Pingleton and Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle.
Grande and Chenoweth also recorded a duet together for Chenoweth’s For the Girls album. Today, Chenoweth still works with Grande as a mentor to the performers Grande coaches on The Voice.
About Cynthia Erivo
Erivo has no shortage of accolades to her name. She has multiple Tony Awards, a Grammy, and a Daytime Emmy Award, just to name a few.
She began her prolific acting career in 2011. It’s impressive to see all that she’s accomplished in just a decade. She started off in a stage production called The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Her star started really rising when she starred in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple which opened in 2015. She won two Tony Awards after being nominated for four for her portrayal of Celie.
She entered the world of film in 2018 to appear in Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. Next, she rose to the occasion as Harriet Tubman in the 2019 biopic, getting nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and Best Original Song for the single “Stand Up” she performed on the soundtrack.
And she has also dipped her toes into television, most notably playing Aretha Franklin in the National Geographic anthology series Genius: Aretha in 2021.
Erivo, like Grande, also has a connection with the original cast of Wicked. Erivo appeared in the PBS special Wicked in Concert alongside Menzel and Chenoweth.
Why Have We Waited So Long for the Wicked Movie?
Universal announced back in 2012 that a Wicked movie was in the works. So why are we only learning of the lead role casting in 2021?
The short answer? Production delays and the Cats disaster.
Production started ramping up in 2016 with the goal for a 2019 release. But then Cats happened.
The Cats adaptation was so disastrous and meme-worthy that not only did people question the entire premise of adapting shows into movies, but Andrew Lloyd Webber was so distraught that he got a therapy dog.
In 2021, they decided that it was time to try again. Director John M. Chu was enlisted after finishing up directing In the Heights, an adaptation of Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical. Schwartz and Holzman, the original composer and librettist behind the Broadway music and lyrics, have joined the project to adapt their work for the film.
Filming was originally expected to begin in March 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. However, sources have reported that it has been pushed until June and will relocate to the UK.
All we know is that we cannot wait to hear more details on the Wicked movie. It will be exhilarating for longtime fans and newcomers to see the film adaptation when it finally hits the big screen.
Of the Broadway shows turned into films, we think this one has the potential to be something truly magical. You could say that we think it will be pretty Pop-u-lar.
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