Wicked gained a devoted following and made Broadway history so fast that it seems like it’s been around forever. In reality, the musical officially opened on June 10, 2003, at the Curran Theater in San Francisco—and it was just announced that it will be turned into a film, hitting theaters December 2021. Here’s what you need to know about the musical.
1. The idea for Wicked came to Stephen Schwartz on vacation.
Stephen Schwartz, known for writing the musicals Pippin and Godspell, was on vacation in Hawaii in 1996 when a friend mentioned an interesting book she was reading about the origins of the Wicked Witch of the West. Intrigued, Schwartz got the book—Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—and was immediately hooked. As soon as he got home from vacation, Schwartz called his lawyer and started working on obtaining the rights.
2. There’s a surprising connection between Elphaba and Jordan Catalano.
3. There was an Elphaba before Idina Menzel.
Though it’s hard to imagine anyone but Idina Menzel making the role famous, she wasn’t the first person to step into Elphaba’s pointed shoes. Stephanie Block read the part while the show was being developed, but was eventually replaced by Menzel, who already had a Tony nomination under her belt (for Rent). Block would have her day, though: She originated the role in the first national tour in 2005.
4. Wicked was a smash hit from the get-go …
Usually, it takes even the most successful productions two to three years to recoup the original investment. Wicked made back the $14 million that had been put into it in just 14 months.
5. … but critics weren’t initially on board.
“The yellow road has a few bricks missing,” wrote Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle. According to San Jose Mercury News reviewer Karen D’Souza, “Dorothy isn’t the only one who thinks there’s no place like home. About an hour into Wicked, this reviewer started to yearn for a pair of ruby slippers. Style over substance is the real theme in this Emerald City.” After these reviews, Holzman and Schwartz spent three months reworking the show before its Broadway debut.
6. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel were both nominated for Best Actress Tony Awards in 2004.
In the end, Idina Menzel ended up taking home her first Tony. She won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album the same year (as did Chenoweth). Chenoweth already had a Tony under her belt; she won her first in 1999 for her role as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
7. Menzel missed her final performance as Elphaba due to an injury.
The day before her final show, Menzel fell several feet through a trap door during a performance. The New York Times reported that Menzel was rushed to the hospital, still wearing her witch costume and green makeup. Fans began to wonder if the Wicked Witch role was cursed—Margaret Hamilton, who played the witch in the Wizard of Oz, suffered serious burns while she was filming the movie.
8. The secret to Elphaba’s emerald skin: MAC makeup.
The trick to getting Elphaba’s skin so brilliantly verdant is a product you can buy at any MAC makeup store: Chromacake, a solid watercolor cake activated with water. We’re assuming the Wicked folks are able to get the stuff in quantities larger than the 3.3 oz. size sold on the website.
You can see the transformation happen here:
9. The show requires a lot of power.
Twelve homes could be powered with the amount of electricity it takes to stage the show every night. The production also requires about 250 pounds of dry ice to create all of that dramatic fog.
10. Wicked contains a tribute to The wizard of Oz‘s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The first few notes of the song “Unlimited/I’m Limited” theme pay homage to the show’s Wizard of Oz roots. But it’s only the first seven notes due to copyright law: “When you get to the eighth note, the people can come and say, ‘Oh you stole our tune,’” Schwartz has said. “And of course it’s obviously also disguised in that it’s completely different rhythmically. And it’s also harmonized completely differently … It’s over a different chord and so on, but still it’s the first seven notes of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’”
11. Kristin Chenoweth did an Anthony Weiner parody of “Popular.”
In 2013, Chenoweth poked a little fun at the Anthony Weiner scandal by modifying the lyrics to her famous song when she performed on the Tonight Show.
12. NASA has used Wicked‘s “Defying Gravity” as an astronaut wake-up call.
NASA often provides wake-up calls for astronauts in space. Sometimes it’s based on astronaut requests, and other times the song is space-themed or related to the activities planned for the day. On April 8, 2010, “Defying Gravity” was played [PDF] to wake up Mission Specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.
13. The Wicked Witch wasn’t named Elphaba in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.
She was nameless, until Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked. Maguire came up with the moniker by using Baum’s initials. L.F.B. = El-pha-ba.
14. The film adaptation of Wicked is slated to hit theaters in 2021 …
In 2014, Schwartz told Vulture last year that “We’re starting to do some work on it. I don’t know exactly how many years away it is. [We can] really look at it again and say, ‘Oh, we can do this, and we’ve always wanted to do that and we couldn’t onstage, but we can in a movie.’ We’re actually having a blast.” It took a few years, but the film is finally slated to hit theaters in December 2021. The film adaptation will be directed by Stephen Daldry, who previously helmed Billy Elliot.
15. … but don’t expect Menzel and Chenoweth to reprise their roles.
“I would die to be in [the film], except … they told us we’re a little over the age for that,” Menzel told Andy Cohen in 2014.