The Wicked Movie Has Found Its Witches

Good news! Sorry, but you’re required to begin any post about movement on the Wicked movie with these words. And this genuinely is good news: In a tweet that kept Wicked fans up into the wee hours, director John M. Chu announced his iconic witches have been cast. Cynthia Erivo will play Elphaba, the (eventual) Wicked Witch of the West, and Ariana Grande will play Glinda, the Good Witch.

Cynthia Erivo is a powerhouse who just played Aretha Franklin on Genius, though I am very partial to her role in Bad Times at the El Royale, which also let her sing (stunningly). Ariana Grande is a Grammy-winning pop superstar with a four-octave vocal range and, adorably, a history with the original Glinda, Kristen Chenoweth.

Response to the casting has been absolutely all over the place, and may or may not have led to several staff having a lot of opinions about who should play the rest of the vital roles. For the record, we are collectively against James Corden being anywhere near this movie, and personally I feel Anthony Stewart Head would make a grand Doctor Dillamond, even though Dillamond has one of the worst songs (which is now stuck in my head).

One frequent complaint is that these stars are too old, since the story is partly set when the witches meet in college. But Wicked‘s stars on stage have also generally been quite a bit older than their characters’ first-act ages. In Gregory Maguire’s book on which the musical is (somewhat loosely) based, Elphaba is well into her 30s by the later parts of the story. The musical compresses that timeline somewhat, but the second act still takes place much later.

Wicked premiered on Broadway in 2003, with Chenoweth as Glinda, Idina Menzel as Elphaba, and Joel Grey as the Wizard (can we get him back for the movie?). It’s the second highest-grossing Broadway musical of all time, trailing only The Lion King. It’s also a drastic revision of Maguire’s book, which is dark and strange and, in the end, hews more closely to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  The musical adaptation came from composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin) and writer Winnie Holman (the creator of My So-Called Life), who are both returning to re-adapt their musical as a film.

For the first time, I feel … like this movie might actually happen. In conclusion,

Wicked does not yet have a release date.


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