How Wicked Defied the Odds

Last year, Wicked celebrated a decade on Broadway. Many of us have been to a Wicked show, if we haven’t, then we’ve heard about it from others who have – however, few know about the odds defying history behind its success and popularity. Wicked the Musical, premiered in 2003 to some seriously harsh reviews. Newsday was a little too scathing in their review calling the production “overblown, overproduced and confusingly dark”. The New Yorker went a little overboard with “there are twenty two songs, however none of them is memorable the slightest”. And then there was The New York Times, pretty much hitting the last nail in the production’s coffin, “sadly, speaks of the hopeless future of Broadway musical”. Or so they thought.

What all these critics didn’t foresee, was the future.  In a couple of years, Wicked became a popular attraction. With more than thirty eight million theatergoers and a whole lot of inspired productions across the globe, the cast, the creative team and legions of fans from all over the world managed to defy the odds to make this production a success. A musical that critics thought would be the end of Broadway musicals actually defined it and changed it for good.


The Unknown History of Wicked

Based on a novel by Gregory Maguire, narrating the “real” story behind the famous witches of Oz, and specially focusing on the “misunderstood” wicked green witch of the west, Wicked the musical has become a children’s favorite. It became extremely popular especially among families with young girls. Around Halloween time, you can see a bunch of little girls dressed as the wicked witch of the west.
Now that you know about the humble and not that spectacular beginning, and the way it managed to turn the tables – here is a little ‘Wicked’ history for you:

    • Lyricist and composer, Stephen Schwartz first got to know about the story of Wicked when he was in Hawaii on a vacation. During a boat ride, he sat next to Holly Near, the singer, who told him during their conversation that she is currently reading a Maguire novel that she really loves. After getting to know the story, Schwartz instantly saw the possibility of turning it into a musical.


    • By the year 2013, Wicked had been taken to more than a hundred cities in thirteen countries; and translated into Spanish, Japanese, Korean, German and Dutch.


    • The original novel by Maguire is darker and is quite depressing; however it was toned down by Winnie Holtzman for the musical, making it more family friendly.


    • The popularity of the show is evident from the fact that Elphaba’s costume as well as her signature broom is displayed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington’s American Stories exhibit.


  • Idina Menzel received a Tony award for her performance as the green witch Elphaba. During auditions, Menzel’s voice cracked while singing “Defying Gravity” and she went home in tears, certain that she had lost the part.

It is simply amazing how much attention is given to the details. Here is a little information what happens behind the scenes:

    • In every Wicked show, around 200 pounds of dried ice is used.


    • The show’s electronics department requires enough power that can light up twelve houses easily.


    • For Elphaba’s makeup, MAC Chromacake of Landscape Green shade is used instead of foundation.


  • That scene where Elphaba realizes her power to fly and ascends from the stage without wires is probably the most spectacular and a must watch. What actually happens is that Elphaba runs to a spot which is a hidden deck. When the actress steps onto it, the device locks her into place and it ascends as she operates it herself.

Wicked is no Rocky, where a down and out boxer gets the chance of a lifetime. But the production team sure did feel like Rocky where it got universally panned but rose up again to what it is today: a spectacular production and good wholesome fun for the entire family.

Image courtesy: By bradleypjohnson (IMG_3768) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ivy Oscar is a professional writer and blogger from Magnolia, Delaware. She likes to write about music, sports, celebrities and all the good things in life.
Categories: Theater

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