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The Wicked Movie Musical Is Coming: Everything You Need to Know

Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande in 'Wicked'
Universal Pictures

As Broadway’s fifth longest-running show, Wicked has nearly two decades worth of fans who can recite every word of the musical. When it debuted in 2003 with Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth as the original Elphaba and Glinda, respectively, it was an overnight sensation. So naturally, when it was announced that director Jon M. Chu would be adapting the Tony award-winning musical for the big screen with not one, but two films, there was a collective rush of excitement among both theater and movie buffs alike. The Hollywood version will see Ariana Grande stepping into the part of good witch Glinda, while Cynthia Erivo will go fully green as Elphaba. The vocals will no doubt be stellar and the production value—after nearly a decade of planning—top notch. Here, everything you need to know about the upcoming movie musical.

Will the plot of the Wicked movie be different from the Broadway musical?

Wicked is expected to follow more or less the plot as the original show, which is based on Gregory Maguire’s bestselling novel of the same name. A prequel to the Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the story of how Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba) became unlikely friends at Shiz University. It also includes origin stories for other Oz characters, and spawned hits “Defying Gravity” and “Popular.”

Per an official description of the film: Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, stars Erivo as Elphaba, a young woman, misunderstood because of her unusual green skin, who has yet to discover her true power, and Grande as Glinda, a popular young woman, gilded by privilege and ambition, who has yet to discover her true heart.

Who else is in the Wicked cast?

As noted, Erivo will portray Elphaba, a role originally and famously played by Idina Menzel on Broadway, while Grande will star opposite her as Glinda, originally played by Kristin Chenoweth.

A true vocal powerhouse, Erivo has won a Grammy, Emmy, and Tony for her role as Celie in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple. She also received an Oscar nomination for her role in the film Harriet. Grande is of course a pop star and child actress, but she also has musical theater roots; she got her start in the 2008 Broadway musical 13. Grande is also an avowed theater lover, and performed “The Wizard and I” from Wicked during an NBC live special in 2018, foreshadowing her casting.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Grande joked that she “stalked” producer Marc Platt about the role. “It was literally 10 years of being like, ‘Knock, knock, any developments? Is there an audition coming this year, or next year? I would like to start preparing today,’” she said.

In the same interview, Erivo and Grande sang each other’s praises. “I just need to say that I don’t think people realize that she’s got the chops,” Erivo said of Grande. “I don’t think people realize how brilliant this person’s brain and voice and talent is.” Grande added, “She’s my favorite female voice. When I was watching you sing at the Oscars, I said, ‘I hope someday I get to sing with her.’”

In addition to the two stars, Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey will play the roguish prince Fiyero, who drives a wedge between Glinda and Elphaba. Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh will portray Shiz University’s headmistress Madame Morrible, and Jeff Goldblum plays the Wizard of Oz himself. Tony nominee Ethan Slater (Broadway’s Spongebob Squarepants, and Ariana Grande’s boyfriend) plays Boq, an altruistic Munchkin student, while SNL’s Bowen Yang and Harlots’ Bronwyn James play Glinda’s lackeys, Pfannee and ShenShen.

Is there a Wicked trailer?

The first official trailer for Wicked dropped during the Super Bowl on February 11. The clip shows Grande and Erivo first meeting at Shiz University, with Grande’s Glinda gasping along with the rest of her classmates at the sight of Erivo’s Elphaba, saying, “You’re green!” The rest of the minute-long trailer shows the pair engaged in fantastical adventures. Goldblum, as the Wizard of Oz, ominously growls, “Bring her to me,” and we see a shot of Glinda in her iconic bubble, as in the original 1939 film. “Don’t be afraid,” she tells Elphaba, who responds, “I’m not afraid. It’s the Wizard who should be afraid of me.” Watch below:

A featurette released on May 13 shows the moment both Erivo and Grande received the news they’d be starring in the film. Both actresses burst into tears, with Grande, who has been vying for the role of the Good Witch for years, saying, “I’m going to take such good care of her (Glinda).” Watch below:

How was Wicked made?

After the first trailer dropped, viewers were quick to point out what seemed to be excessive CGI—given that Wicked is in the Wizard of Oz lineage, it has a lot of lush cinematic history to live upto. Chu, however, says he did his best to live up to his predecessor.

“I was like, ‘I want to do it the way I dreamed about it as a kid when I watched Hook,’ ” Chu told VF. “Behind the scenes, Steven Spielberg was on a dock with a giant pirate ship. I’m like, ‘If this is my one opportunity to do this, I want to do that.’”

Wicked’s yellow brick road reportedly came complete with mud, and an actual train transports the witches to the Emerald City. Fans of Grande, Erivo and musical theater in general will also be delighted to know that astoundingly, their vocals were shot live. “When we were shooting it, those girls were like, ‘Fuck the pre-records. We’re going live,’” Chu explained, adding that he was skeptical of the decision. “There’s going to be a lot of wind in your air pipes. Is that okay?” he asked. But they both replied, “‘Yeah. That’s what we do.’”

For the film’s best-known song, “Defying Gravity,” Erivo flies through the sky belting out the tune. “She had a harness pulling and pushing and yanking and tugging on every nook and cranny that there is,” Grande said.

Meanwhile, Erivo recalled Grande’s own stunts: “I’m literally never going to forget you jumping on a chandelier over my head whilst singing,” she said, to which Grande replied: “[Glinda] was just so excited to perform for her new friend. She wanted to do a trick.”

Why are there two parts of Wicked?

In April 2022, Chu announced on Instagram that instead of cutting down all the material Wicked has to work with into one film, he’d simply be making two Wicked movies:

“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,” he shared on Instagram. “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!!!! With more space, we can tell the story of Wicked as it was meant to be told while bringing even more depth and surprises to the journeys of these beloved characters.”

Is there a release date for Wicked?

Wicked will hit theaters just before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 27, 2024. The second installment is set to be released one year later, on November 28, 2025.

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