Our Top 10 Facts About Wicked
| By Ephram Ryan
It’s hard to believe that Stephen Schwartz’s Broadway musical Wicked has been staged worldwide for over 15 years now. This enchanting, alternative telling of the 1939 film seems to have the Midas touch, turning every theatre it touches into theatrical gold. Despite the show’s unprecedented success, it wasn’t always so ‘popular’ amongst the critics. Did you know that this Ozian musical was actually off to a rocky start during its previews on Broadway and had to be revamped for three whole months? That’s not the only fact that may come as a surprise. Check out our list for the top 10 facts that you may not have known about Wicked.
Pictured: Alice Fearn defies gravity as Elphaba Thropp, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West
10. Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba for the West End production as well.
Although she was not joined by her Broadway co-star Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda), Idina Menzel did return to Shiz University to play Elphaba for the 2006 West End premiere of Wicked, portraying the role for three months. She won a WhatsOnStage Theatregoers Choice Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her reprisal.
9. Idina Menzel’s audition as Elphaba did not go smoothly.
When Menzel auditioned for the role of Elphaba, her voice cracked really badly when attempting to hit the big high note in ‘Defying Gravity.’ She reportedly cursed on set and cried her way home, having convinced herself that she had ruined her chances of landing the part. However, both Joe Mantello, the director of Wicked, and Stephen Schwartz were still impressed with her magical performance and found her mistake to be charming. In the end, Menzel was cast for the role and she won her first Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance.
8. The Wicked Witch didn’t always bear the name Elphaba.
In L. Frank Baum’s Oz book series, the Wicked Witch had no name. That is, until Gregory Maguire wrote the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West in 1996, a revisionist exploration of the characters of The Wizard of Oz. Maguire coined the name Elphaba from L. Frank Baum’s initials: L-F-B.
7. Stephen Schwartz was on holiday when the idea for the musical came to fruition.
You can say, ‘Mahalo!’ to the state of Hawai’i. Stephen Schwartz was on holiday on the Hawaiian islands back in 1996 when his friend mentioned reading an interesting book on the origins of the Wicked Witch of the West. Schwartz was so fascinated that he decided to pick up a copy of Maguire’s novel for himself. When he returned home from paradise, and after finishing the book, he promptly called his lawyer to obtain the rights for a musical and the rest was history.
6. The song ‘Defying Gravity’ has been played in space countless times.
Talk about feeling weightless. Wicked’s hit number, ‘Defying Gravity,’ has been used a number of times by NASA as a wake-up call for their astronauts currently floating in space. The song is usually played upon special request by the astronaut but is also played on other special occasions.
5. There was an actress who read for Elphaba before Idina Menzel.
Stephanie Block was the first to step into Elphaba’s pointy shoes when she read the part during the show’s development process. She was eventually replaced by Idina Menzel, who had already received a Tony nomination for her role of Maureen Johnson in Rent.
4. The Wicked Witch of the West originally failed to captivated critics.
Wicked didn’t always have the critics under its spell. During the musical’s previews, it received mixed to negative reviews, which prompted Schwartz and Winnie Holzman to make several adjustments to the show before its official premiere. After three months of reworks, their hard work paid off.
3. Wicked was a box-office smash right from the very beginning
It didn’t take long for the Broadway production to recoup its original budget of $14 million, having accomplished just that after only 14 months. To put things into perspective, it normally takes two or three years for a show to recoup its initial investment.
2. Wicked set a new West End box office record.
Wicked became the first show in the history of the West End to ever gross over £1,000,000 in just one week (for the week ending on Saturday, 1 January 2011). The production has beaten its own record several times since then.
1. The London production of Wicked has been a huge awards magnet.
The West End production of Wicked won two Laurence Olivier Audience Awards, nine WhatsOnStage Awards (including ‘Best West End Show’ and ‘Best New Musical’), an Evening Standard Theatre Award, a Visit London Gold Award and over 100 awards worldwide.
Wicked is now playing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and booking until 25 May 2019. If you have not yet seen one of London’s most beloved musicals, or simply can’t get enough of all the show’s magical moments, then book your tickets now and make your night one that you’ll never forget!
Purchase your tickets to Wicked here.