It’s been a while since we had any updates on the screen adaptation of Wicked. The Broadway classic finally found its Elphaba and Glinda last year, but what’s been going on since?
History of the Musical
Based on Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (itself based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz), Wicked made its stage debut in 2003. Since then, the hit has had several successful runs, national and international tours, and translated productions and is a Broadway staple. It is Broadway’s fifth longest-running show and its second highest-grossing musical after The Lion King.
Wicked tells the story of an Oz more complicated than many of us know from Dorothy’s adventures with tornados and flying houses. Glinda and Elphaba meet at Shiz University where popularity is as important as magic. The years those roommates spend together will inform how each witch finds her eventual place in Dorothy’s story and potentially change your understanding of how Elphaba got so wicked in the first place.
Adapting it for the Screen
Taking Wicked from the stage to the screen has been discussed since not long after the musical secured its spot on Broadway, but until now, nothing major has happened. In fact, it was announced that a film adaptation of Wicked would be in theaters in 2019 (Cats would eventually take that spot). A new 2021 date also fell through.
With constant date changes and no cast, it seemed like a Wicked movie might be an Ozian illusion, but in 2021 Jon M. Chu signed on as director, and by November two of the lead roles were announced hopefully locking in the film to finally get rolling.
Elphaba and Glinda
Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo announced that they would be taking on the roles of Glinda and Elphaba respectively in November 2021.
In their Instagram announcements, Ariana and Cynthia shared that they were already celebrating their future as roommates at “Dear Old Shiz.” Ariana shared a picture of a pink bouquet with a card that 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.” Cynthia also received flowers and a note from Ariana. “Dear Cynthia, Honored doesn’t even begin to cover it. I cannot wait to hug you. See you in Oz. All my love, Ari,” Ariana wrote.
Both stars have performed iconic songs from the musical before but in opposite roles. Ariana performed “The Wizard and I” at Wicked‘s fifteenth-anniversary concert on NBC. Cynthia took on Glinda’s “Thank Goodness” in PBS’ 2021 concert special.
Two Films, Two Release Dates
On Jon M. Chu sent a special delivery from his OzPhone to Instagram with a Wicked update. “We have so many exciting things to share,” he said in his note, “but for not I’m giving you one… or two, rather.”
From Jon’s announcement, it seems like the behind-the-scenes work of bringing Wicked to life is well underway and there are a lot of ideas being developed. So many ideas, in fact, that one movie is impossible.
“Here’s what happened: as we prepared this production over the last year, it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to wrestle the story of WICKED into a single film without doing some real damage to it. As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years. So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one WICKED movie but TWO!!!!”
Jon went on to say that two films would allow the cast and crew to explore more of Oz and tell the story “as it was meant to be told” with “even more depth and surprise to the journeys of these beloved characters.”
With the announcement that Wicked will now be a duology instead of a standalone film, there’s a lot to speculate and get excited about. Will the films be divided into the same two acts as the musical? How many new songs will we get with this expanded run time? How much of Oz will we see? But Jon has also given us a new release date. Two new release dates.
“WICKED is finally coming to you” he wrote (Sounds like Jon is over the wait as we are!), “on successive Christmas holidays beginning December 2024.” Along with the release dates, he also promised rehearsal and shooting updates. It looks like we’re finally on the way to Oz.