Everything you need to know about 'Wicked' on Broadway
Here’s your ultimate guide to Wicked, the immensely popular Broadway musical.
How did the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz become so wicked? The Wicked musical answers that question. The musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, takes place in the land of Oz before Dorothy’s arrival.
The show is about two young witches: Elphaba, whose skin is green, and Glinda, who is blonde and beautiful. They dislike each other at first but soon form an unlikely bond. The musical follows them from their girlhood friendship and explains how Elphaba became the Wicked Witch and Glinda became the Good Witch.
Wicked may be based on The Wizard of Oz and the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked, but the musical has become its own cultural phenomenon due to its moving portrayal of female friendship and its memorable songs, from “Defying Gravity” to “For Good.” Not to mention the special effects, from Glinda’s descent from the sky in a sea of bubbles, to Elphaba flying on her broomstick. Wicked is not just a fresh story about two well-known characters, it’s also a spectacular megamusical.
Come on down to the Ozdust Ballroom and learn more about Wicked, with characters, running time, songs, and behind-the-scenes history of how the show was made.
What is Wicked about?
Wicked is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The book is a revisionist take on The Wizard of Oz, both the L. Frank Baum novel and the Judy Garland-led film.
In the musical, which takes place before Dorothy Gale arrives in Oz, the young wicked witch, named Elphaba, is an outcast because of her atypical green skin. She meets a young Galinda (later Glinda) while studying magic at Shiz University. In contrast to Elphaba, Glinda is blonde and conventionally beautiful. The two get paired as roommates and are initially enemies, but they eventually become best friends.
The two are driven apart when Elphaba discovers that the man behind the curtain, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is actually a fraud. The Wizard wants to turn the talking, intelligent animals of Oz into unintelligible beasts. Elphaba’s discovery of the corruption in Oz, and her fight against it, gets her painted as a Wicked Witch, as the citizens of Oz are convinced to stand by the Wizard. Elphaba's crusade also tests Glinda and Elphaba’s friendship, as Glinda is torn between following the rules in Oz or standing by her friend.
Wicked is about female friendship, discrimination, governmental corruption, and the musical shows how the iconic characters in The Wizard of Oz (not just the witches, but the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, too) came to be.
Where is Wicked playing?
Wicked is currently running at the Gershwin Theatre, located at 222 West 51st Street, between Broadway and Ninth Avenue. The Gershwin Theatre is named after famed composers George and Ira Gershwin. It is the largest theatre on Broadway, with 1,933 seats.
How long is Wicked?
Wicked runs 2 hours and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. This is a standard running time for a Broadway musical. It’s recommended that you eat before the show.
What days is Wicked playing?
Wicked plays eight performances a week at the Gershwin Theatre. The show typically runs Tuesday to Sunday, and sometimes there are two performances on Saturday, as well as either Wednesday or Sunday depending on the week. Wicked is dark on Monday. For the complete weekly performance schedule and up-to-date show times, please visit the Wicked page to learn more.
When did Wicked premiere?
Wicked began in 1996, when Stephen Schwartz was on vacation in Hawaii with his friend, songwriter John Bucchino. There Bucchino recommended that Schwarz read Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked. Schwartz did just that. He immediately fell in love with the idea of a musical about the Wicked Witch of the West and called his agent to get the rights to the book. Unfortunately, Maguire had sold the adaptation rights to the book to Universal Pictures, who wanted to make a film. However, Schwartz eventually succeeded, and the hit musical was born.
- 1998: Schwartz successfully persuades Maguire to give him the rights to Wicked. He also got Universal president Marc Platt on board to help produce the musical. Schwartz then connected with screenwriter Winnie Holzman to write the book for Wicked.
- 2000: Wicked is developed through a series of workshops. Kristin Chenoweth reads for the role of Glinda, and Stephanie J. Block reads for Elphaba. Elphaba is then recast with Idina Menzel. Joe Mantello also came on board as director, Wayne Cilento as choreographer, and David Stone as producer.
- 2003: Wicked has its first full production in San Francisco in May. Reception was mixed, with many saying Chenoweth’s Glinda overshadowed Menzel’s Elphaba. The musical is retooled, with some songs cut and new songs added, and Wicked opens on Broadway in October. On Broadway, Joel Grey joins the cast as the Wizard. Wicked continues to run to this day.
- 2005: Wicked launches its first U.S. tour. Stephanie J. Block leads the cast as Elphaba, and Kendra Kassebaum is Glinda. The first sit-down production of Wicked also opens in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre, with Ana Gasteyer as Elphaba and Kate Reinders as Glinda. The Chicago production would run until 2009.
- 2006: Wicked opens in London's West End at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, with Idina Menzel reprising the role of Elphaba and Helen Dallimore joining as Glinda. The West End production of Wicked is still running.
- 2008: The first Australian production of Wicked opens at the Regent Theatre before going on tour.
- 2011: Wicked goes on its Asia tour, beginning in Singapore’s Grand Theater. It plays in the Philippines and South Korea.
- 2013: The first Wicked U.K. tour begins at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. It would run until 2015.
- Other productions: Wicked has also played in other countries including Germany, Finland, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan. Non-replica productions (those that don't copy the staging of the original Broadway production) have also gone up in Finland, Denmark, Germany, and South Korea — with new costumes and special effects. Elphaba has truly defied gravity around the world.
Who wrote Wicked?
Wicked features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman.
Schwartz is a prolific stage and screen composer. On stage, his musicals include Pippin and Godspell. Schwartz is also known for writing the songs for the Disney films Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as the DreamWorks animated film The Prince of Egypt (Schwartz has also adapted the latter two into stage musicals). Schwartz has won one Tony Award, three Academy Awards, and one Golden Globe Award.
Winnie Holzman is a screenwriter who received an Emmy nomination for the ABC teen series My So-Called Life. Her other television writing credit is on Once and Again. Aside from Wicked, Holzman has written one other musical, Birds of Paradise, which was produced off Broadway in 1987.
The two lead characters of Wicked are Elphaba and Glinda, but the cast includes many other memorable characters, including some all-new names among the classic Wizard of Oz characters. Below are the main characters in the show and notable people who have played them.
- Elphaba: An outcast in Oz because of her green skin, Elphaba is stubborn and strong-willed, with a strong moral compass. She and Glinda dislike each other at first, but the two grow into best friends. Some of the notable actors who’ve played Elphaba include Idina Menzel, Stephanie J. Block, Ana Gasteyer, Eden Espinosa, Carmen Cusack, Caissie Levy, and Lindsay Mendez.
- Glinda: Bright and bubbly, Glinda is Elphaba’s best friend. But while Elphaba is willing to break the rules, Glinda chooses to follow them, and that causes conflict in the pair’s friendship. Some of the notable actors who’ve played Glinda include Kristin Chenoweth, Megan Hilty, Patti Murin, Katie Rose Clarke, and Annaleigh Ashford.
- Fiyero: Fiyero is handsome and just wants to have a good time. Glinda originally falls for him, but he falls for Elphaba. The actors who’ve played Fiyero include Norbert Leo Butz, Aaron Tveit, Taye Diggs, and Justin Guarini.
- The Wizard: The ruler of Oz, the Wizard has a frightening reputation, but he actually calls himself a “sentimental man.” Notable actors who’ve played the Wizard include Joel Grey and Ben Vereen.
- Madame Morrible: The headmistress of Shiz, Madame Morrible assigns Elphaba and Glinda as roommates. She sees the potential in Elphaba to be a powerful witch, but she later becomes the Wizard's press secretary turns on Elphaba when she exposes his corruption.
- Nessarose: Elphaba’s younger sister, who uses a wheelchair and who is gifted with a pair of red ruby slippers. Nessarose is in love with Boq, who is in love with Glinda.
- Boq: A munchkin who is in love with Glinda but stays with Nessarose out of obligation.
- Doctor Dillamond: A professor at Shiz who, as a talking animal, faces discrimination and the impending loss of his ability to speak. He inspires Elphaba to rebel against the Oz order.
From “Defying Gravity” to "Popular," Wicked is full of show-stopping anthems that even casual theatre fans will recognize. From upbeat songs like "Dancing Through Life" to emotional ballads like "For Good," the Wicked songs cover emotions from hope to loss to love in one short show. Here are all the songs you'll hear when you see Wicked on Broadway.
- "No One Mourns the Wicked" – Glinda, Witch's Father, Witch's Mother, Midwife, Ensemble
- "Dear Old Shiz" – Ensemble
- "The Wizard and I" – Madame Morrible, Elphaba
- "What is This Feeling?" – Glinda, Elphaba, Ensemble
- "Something Bad" – Dr. Dillamond, Elphaba
- "Dancing Through Life" – Fiyero, Glinda, Boq, Nessarose, Elphaba, Ensemble
- "Popular" – Glinda
- "I'm Not That Girl" – Elphaba
- "One Short Day" – Elphaba, Glinda, Emerald City Citizens
- "A Sentimental Man" – The Wizard
- "Defying Gravity" – Elphaba, Glinda, Ensemble
- "No One Mourns the Wicked (Reprise)" – Ensemble
- "Thank Goodness" – Glinda, Madame Morrible, Ensemble
- "The Wicked Witch of the East" – Elphaba, Nessarose, Boq
- "Wonderful" – The Wizard and Elphaba
- "I'm Not That Girl (Reprise)" – Glinda
- "As Long As You're Mine" – Elphaba, Fiyero
- "No Good Deed" – Elphaba
- "For Good" – Glinda and Elphaba
- "March of the Witch Hunters" – Boq, Ensemble
- "Finale" – Elphaba, Glinda, Ensemble
What awards has Wicked won?
Like Glinda herself, Wicked is very popular. Below are some of the awards that Wicked has won.
- Tony Awards: Wicked received three Tony Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. The show was nominated for 10 total, including Best Musical.
- Drama Desk Award: Wicked won seven Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Orchestrations, Outstanding Set Design, and Outstanding Costume Design.
- Grammy Awards: Wicked won the Best Musical Show Album Award.
Major productions of Wicked
Since its premiere in 2003 on Broadway, Wicked has been dancing through life around the world. Here are some of the notable productions of Wicked, with some behind-the-scenes facts.
- 2003 Broadway production: Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in Wicked. But the road to Oz wasn’t always paved with yellow bricks. In one performance of the show, Menzel fell through a trap door and broke her ribs. That didn't dampen her love of the show; Menzel went on to play Elphaba in London and continues to sing “Defying Gravity” at her concerts.
- 2006 London production: Aside from Menzel, the entire cast of the London production is different from the Broadway one. Menzel played Elphaba for four months in London before she was replaced by Kerry Ellis.
- 2006 Japanese production: This production is notable because it’s only 30 minutes long and plays at the Universal Studios Japan theme park. Fiyero, Madame Morrible, Boq, Nessarose, and Doctor Dillamond are cut from the production.
- 2018 Wicked tribute: NBC airs “A Very Wicked Halloween: Celebrating 15 Years on Broadway.” This special was hosted by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. Ariana Grande, Pentatonix, Adam Lambert, and Ledisi perform songs from the musical. The evening ends with Menzel and Chenoweth singing “For Good,” joined by other notable Elphabas and Glindas from the show’s history.
- 2021 PBS special: PBS airs a Wicked concert special, also with Chenoweth and Menzel as hosts. Rita Moreno, Cynthia Erivo, Ariana DeBose, Gavin Creel, Ali Stroker, Amber Riley, Mario Cantone, Jennifer Nettles, Stephanie Hsu, Alex Newell, Issac Powell, and Gabrielle Ruiz perform songs from the musical.
Onscreen adaptations of Wicked
A film adaptation has been in the works since 2004 with Universal Pictures. In February 2021, Jon M. Chu, who directed the In the Heights film, signed on to direct the Wicked film. In November 2021, the two lead cast members were announced: Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba and Grammy winner Ariana Grande as Glinda. Production is set to begin on Wicked in summer 2022 in the U.K. Idina Menzel said in an interview that she and Kristin Chenoweth were now too old to play the characters they created.
Fun facts about Wicked
From how to get Elphaba’s iconic green makeup to how Wicked is different from the novel on which it’s based, here are some facts about Wicked that every Ozian should know.
- The Wicked Witch of the West is actually nameless in The Wizard of Oz film and books. Gregory Maguire, in his novel Wicked, gave her the name Elphaba based on L. Frank Baum’s initials: L.F.B. is El-pha-ba.
- Wicked is based on the Maguire novel of the same name but deviates from it substantially. For one, the novel primarily follows Elphaba, while the musical is about the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. It also has a happier ending and less adult content than the novel. Maguire loves the musical, saying that "the story is about a friendship between two girls, there's no arguing that that is a very appealing aspect of the play and a good argument why people want to see it again and again."
- Stephen Schwartz convinced Gregory Maguire to give him the rights to Wicked by showing him the opening song of the show, “No One Mourns the Wicked.” Thank goodness!
- Like Glinda, Wicked was popular immediately. The musical made back its $14 million investment in just 15 months (musicals usually take two or three years to recoup their money on Broadway, and most musicals don’t recoup at all). In 2017, Wicked became Broadway’s second highest-grossing musical, behind The Phantom of the Opera.
- Stephen Schwartz wrote the role of Glinda for Kristin Chenoweth, with her personality influencing the character. The role was originally a peripheral one, but because of Chenoweth, Wicked became more about the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba.
- Stephanie J. Block was the first choice for Elphaba. But at the time, Block had no major stage credits, and the team could not put their musical on the shoulders of an unknown actress. So Idina Menzel, who had become a musical theatre star because of Rent, was cast as Elphaba. Block would eventually play Elphaba on the first national tour of Wicked, as well as on Broadway from 2007-2008. And now she and Menzel are both Tony winners — how wonderful!
- There are 450 costumes, 240 pairs of handmade shoes, and 90 wigs in Wicked. It also takes half an hour for the actress playing Elphaba to put on her green makeup every night. The makeup used for Elphaba is available over the counter: It’s Chromacake from MAC in the shade “landscape green.” So it’s easy for anyone to be Elphaba for Halloween!
How to get Wicked tickets
If you are a fan of The Wizard of Oz or want to see a moving musical about female friendship, Wicked will leave you changed for good. Whether by broomstick, flying monkey, or a walk on the yellow brick road, get to the Gershwin to see one of Broadway's biggest blockbusters of the 21st century.