| Like most blockbuster musicals, Wicked
began life as a workshop production, with Stephanie J Block,
Adam Garcia and Kristin Chenoweth creating the characters
of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West), Fiyero and Glinda
(the Good) respectively.
It was during these workshop sessions that these characters,
and others, came to life, discovering just what motivated
them and what could ultimately destroy them. Vocals were
thrashed out, alterations to the book and score were made,
but by the end, the fundamental building blocks for Wicked,
as we know it today, were born. Finally, the producers
had a show with the potential to be a smash-hit Broadway
However, before Wicked could grace the boards
of Broadway, it needed a trial run to see just how well
audiences would respond to this ‘alternate’ look into
the Land of Oz that had been immortalised by the 1939
MGM film starring Judy Garland. So, in the summer of 2003,
Wicked - The Musical opened in San Francisco’s
Curran Theatre. The short run starred Idina Menzel,
Kristin Chenoweth and Norbert Leo Butz as Elphaba, Galinda
and Fiyero. Overwhelming success and support of the musical
secured its move to Broadway.
Between leaving San Francisco and arriving in New
York, several roles were re-cast, most notably that
Joel Grey was brought in as the Wizard, replacing Robert
Morse. Learning from the previous production, the necessary
alterations and changes were made, and on October 30th
2003, the night before Halloween, Wicked - The Musical
officially opened at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre.
In 2004, the Tony Awards brought many nominations of
this new production, including having both leading ladies,
Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, up for Best Actress
in a Musical. But on the night, only one lady could
win, and that was Idina Menzel. Unfortunately, later in
the evening Wicked lost out to Avenue Q
for the coveted Best Musical Award.
Wicked thrashed all Broadway box office records,
continuing to sell out night after night, achieving some
of the highest grossing box office figures Broadway has
ever seen. The show was a hit, and it did not take long
for the producers to get wise to the show’s popularity,
and start contemplating taking the show to new places.
And that’s just what they did.
The first, and probably most logical step, was to take
Wicked on the road, bringing it to people across
the United States who would otherwise not have the opportunity
to see the show. So, in March 2005, the tour began with
a run in Toronto, Canada, before heading back across the
board and touring the States, which it continues to do
One of the most significant stops for the tour was in
Chicago, Illinois, where, as with the other cities they
had visited, they received a very warm welcome and excessive
demand for tickets. By mid-2005, it was decided that the
success of the Broadway show and the touring production
warranted a second sit-down production, outside of New
York. Chicago was the lucky city, and on 24th June 2005,
the show opened officially at the Ford Center for Performing
Arts and continues to play to sold out audiences.
Universal, the money behind Wicked - The Musical,
have also taken a keen interest in the show, and commissioned
a shortened, condensed version of the show for their theme
park based in Japan. The show is very different from the
full scale productions, with limited set, costumes, dialogue
and songs, but one of the most noticeable differences
is that the running order of scenes is completely different.
You will also find that the show is spoken and sung, half
in English and half in Japanese, making for an interesting
performance to anyone who cannot understand both languages!
A copy of the production is available on YouTube*.
Having conquered the States (and Asia with 'mini-Wicked'),
it was time to go global at full-scale. Enter London.
From one Theatreland to another - London’s West End. For
months there was rumour and speculation, innuendo, outuendo…
as to whether the production would jump the Atlantic and
open in the glittering hub of London’s West End. In December
2005, the decision was made and announced to the world,
that as of September 2006, Wicked would take up
residence at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Shortly after that, one of the biggest moments for Wicked
was confirmed - original Elphaba, Idina Menzel, had agreed
to come to London to reprise her role as the green witch
for a limited 3-month run. Previews began on 7th September
2006, with official opening night taking place on 27th
September 2006. The final show of the year was Idina’s
last as the London Elphaba, ending the year on a very
high, and quite sad, note. Then, 1st January 2007 saw
the first ever British Elphaba, Kerry Ellis, take over
While Wicked has not always received positive
acclaim from it’s critics, either in New York or in London,
the public continue to prove them wrong. So much so, that
a third permanent production is currently underway in
Los Angeles, California. The show opens in 2007 with Eden
Espinosa as Elphaba (ex-Broadway and Tour Elphaba), Megan
Hilty as Glinda (ex-Broadway and Tour Glinda) and Kristoffer
Cusick as Fiyero (ex-Broadway and Chicago Fiyero).
With productions now in North America, Europe and Asia,
the Wicked phenomenon is spreading across the world.
Rumours for additional international productions are already
circulating, and it is only a matter of time before a
few more green girls start appearing around the world.
* Recordings are off the live show
version at Universal Studios, Japan, where recording of
the performance IS permitted.