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Wicked on Broadway

All the songs in 'Wicked' on Broadway

Discover fun facts about the hit musical's most popular tunes.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Countless audiences have called Wicked, and all its songs, wonderful for 20 years and counting. Telling the backstory of Elphaba — the Wicked Witch of the West — and the good witch Glinda before the events of The Wizard of Oz, Wicked has defied gravity on Broadway and become one of its most popular long-running shows.

Wicked is one of those musicals with multiple songs even non-theatre fans likely know, "Defying Gravity" and "Popular" among them. Hearing these songs live is some younger fans' first Broadway memory, and Stephen Schwartz's tunes also captured older, longtime Broadway fans with their musical magic and whimsy.

Learn more about all the songs in Wicked, including their significance to the plot and fun facts about them. Light spoilers for Wicked follow.

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"No One Mourns the Wicked"

"No One Mourns the Wicked" is like an extended version of "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead!" from The Wizard of Oz. Like "Ding-Dong!," "No One Mourns the Wicked" hails the death of The Wicked Witch of the West — but this version isn't all happy.

Glinda watches over the celebrating Ozians during this opening number, adding her own musings: "Isn't it nice to know that good will conquer evil?" But, having known the "Wicked Witch" years earlier, she also urges the Ozians to consider: "Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?" The audience then sees a little of Elphaba's backstory play out: Her mother had an affair and gave birth to green-skinned Elphaba, who her father immediately rejected.

"Dear Old Shiz"

This short song marks the transition back from the present into the past, as Glinda starts to reminisce about her friendship with Elphaba. The pair met while at Shiz University, and all the Ozians on stage sing about the fondness they have for their own time at the school.

"Dear Old Shiz" also includes irony that's only apparent on stage. Elphaba first appears during this song, and the other students recoil from her green skin the second she turns up at school. Everyone around her might be singing about "Dear Old Shiz," but it wasn't so "dear" to her.

"The Wizard and I"

"The Wizard and I" is Elphaba's first major solo, in which she sings about her dream to practice magic alongside the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Madame Morrible sings a verse first, declaring that Elphaba has the sorcery skills to be the Wizard's "magic grand vizier," setting off Elphaba's imagination.

She pictures what life will be like by his side: For once, she'll be celebrated for her talents, not mocked for her appearance. She also hopes that, for good measure, the Wizard will use his own powers to "de-greenify" her, "since folks here, to an absurd degree, seem fixated on [her] verdigris."

"What is this Feeling?"

Stephen Schwartz wrote "What is this Feeling?," a duet between Elphaba and Glinda, as a spoof on love songs. At first, it sounds like the women are having an "opposites-attract" moment that surprises them both: ""What is this feeling so sudden and new? I felt the moment I laid eyes on you. My pulse is rushing; my head is reeling."

But then they reveal the true feeling shared between them: loathing. "Unadulterated loathing," in fact. As if it weren't enough that the roommates hate "every little trait, however small" about each other, the other students join in on Glinda's side, ganging up on Elphaba and saying they all loathe her too.

Brittney Johnson in Wicked

"Something Bad"

The title of this song says it all, providing the first hint that all isn't right in Oz. Elphaba's professor, a goat named Dr. Dillamond, shares that talking Animals like him are being forcibly silenced. The two bond over their status as outcasts, and Dillamond's plight motivates Elphaba to meet the Wizard even more, so she can get his help.

"Dancing Through Life"

"Dancing Through Life" introduces another main character: the prince Fiyero, a new student at Shiz who's all play and no work. He sings that life is better when spent relaxing and having fun, not thinking or studying hard. He and Glinda immediately develop a mutual attraction, and she becomes his date to a dance party he throws the night of his arrival.

"Dancing Through Life" is a major number in the show with multiple dance breaks featuring the whole ensemble. And during the course of the song, Elphaba and Glinda finally bond with each other.

"Popular"

"Elphie, now that we're friends, I've decided to make you my new project." That's the iconic first line of "Popular," one of Wicked's most, well, popular songs. It has a reach far beyond Wicked: The song was covered on the TV show Glee, Ariana Grande sampled it in "Popular Song," and it's inspired parody songs about politicians.

In Wicked, "Popular" is Glinda's first major solo, in which she excitedly sings about transforming Elphaba into a chic girl just like her. "When someone needs a makeover," she gushes, "I simply HAVE to take over." The transformation doesn't last — in the next scene, Fiyero charms Elphaba by saying she's good enough without acting like Glinda — but the "Popular" sequence cements the girls' friendship.

Composer Stephen Schwartz has said that the vibe of "Popular" is inspired by the 1995 movie "Clueless."

"I'm Not That Girl"

"I'm Not That Girl" is Elphaba's second solo, a ballad this time. She sadly sings about how Fiyero will never reciprocate her newfound feelings for him, since he's already with the "perfect" Glinda, and Elphaba is just an outcast who's used to not being loved. "She who's winsome, she wins him," Elphaba sings of Glinda.

In "The Wizard and I," Elphaba makes big wishes about her future career. But when it comes to love, she now sings, "Don't wish. Don't start. Wishing only wounds the heart." This line is foreshadowing, but not in the way she expects.

Wicked

"One Short Day"

Finally, Elphaba gets her chance to meet the Wizard, and she takes Glinda along on her adventure. This cheery song underscores their romp through the Emerald City, where they explore beautiful buildings, catch a performance of "Wiz-a-mania," and marvel at the sheer green-ness of everything (which is Elphaba's favorite part). They even don green glasses to intensify the effect.

"A Sentimental Man"

The Wizard makes a grand (and slightly startling) entrance just before this song, greeting Elphaba with a booming voice and a huge mechanical face. But when the Wizard himself emerges, he reveals himself to be just an average, "Sentimental Man," whose unfulfilled wish to be a father inspired him to take up public service.

"Defying Gravity"

Perhaps Wicked's best known song, "Defying Gravity" ends Act 1 and marks the key turning point in the show. When Elphaba realizes the Wizard is actually behind the suppression of the Animals, she vows to expose him as a fraud — and he vows to tell everyone she's the wicked one.

The song also marks a shift in Elphaba and Glinda's friendship, when Elphaba accepts her "wicked" status if it means fighting for her beliefs, whereas Glinda decides to abandon Elphaba and protect her own reputation. "I hope you're happy, now that you're choosing this," the friends tenderly sing to each other. "I really hope you get it, and you don't live to regret it."

One of the most famous moments in the show is when Elphaba "flies" above the stage on her broomstick to sing the final verse and chorus. Even at "no-fly" shows (which happen from time to time when there are technical difficulties), Elphaba's soaring vocals still defy gravity.

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"No One Mourns the Wicked" (Reprise)

This short tune is the first of Act 2, in which the citizens of Oz express their fear about Elphaba's wickedness and what she will do next. Their hysterics are interrupted by the next song, which is...

"Thank Goodness"

The true opening number of Act 2, "Thank Goodness," parallels the Act 1 opener, "No One Mourns the Wicked." The Ozians are again celebrating; this time, they're toasting Glinda and Fiyero's engagement and enjoying "a day that's totally Wicked Witch-free." But once again, Glinda is the one person hiding sadness.

She has to keep up appearances as the "Good Witch," but she's secretly worried about Elphaba's whereabouts, especially after the Ozians hear a rumor that they can melt Elphaba with water and rally to do just that.

"The Wicked Witch of the East"

"The Wicked Witch of the East" isn't so much a song as a scene set to music. It takes place at the home of Elphaba's sister, Nessarose, who now governs Munchkinland with an iron fist and has gained her own reputation as "The Wicked Witch of the East."

This song explains how a few elements of The Wizard of Oz came to be: During the song, Elphaba enchants Nessa's shoes, turning them into ruby slippers that allow her, a wheelchair user, to walk. Shortly after, Nessa misperforms a spell and shrinks the heart of the Munchkin Boq, and Elphaba saves him by turning him into the Tin Man.

Because "The Wicked Witch of the East" has so much dialogue and includes so many key plot points, it's the only major number not included on the cast album to avoid spoiling too much of the show.

"Wonderful"

Here, Elphaba returns to the Wizard's mansion to confront him. But he almost persuades her to give up her cause and join him, fulfilling her lifelong wish. He sings about how "wonderful" it was to become a famous leader from nothing, almost convincing her of how "wonderful" it'll make her feel, too.

The lyrics point to a major theme of Wicked, that most people occupy a gray area between "good vs. bad" (or "wonderful vs. wicked," if you will) but don't always accept that. "Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It's all in which label is able to persist," the Wizard sings. "There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don't exist."

Photo credit: Laura Pick and Helen Woolf (Photo by Matt Crockett)

"I'm Not That Girl" (Reprise)

This song is short — only a few lines — but sets off lots of major events toward the end of the show. Glinda repeats Elphaba's words, "Don't wish. Don't start. Wishing only wounds the heart," after Fiyero leaves her for Elphaba. Angry and heartbroken, Glinda impulsively sells Elphaba out to the mob hunting her.

"As Long As You're Mine"

"I'm Not That Girl" (Reprise) fades into "As Long As You're Mine," in which Elphaba and Fiyero profess their love for each other in the forest. As they're in hiding and face the threat of death, the song is desperate and passionate. Elphaba sings, "If it turns out it's over too fast, I'll make every last moment last, as long as you're mine."

"No Good Deed"

Elphaba's final solo is, perhaps, even more explosive than "Defying Gravity." "No Good Deed" takes place after Fiyero gives himself up to save Elphaba. With no love left in her life now that he and Glinda have both gone away, she vows to live up to her title as a "wicked witch."

"All helpful urges should be circumvented," she sings. "No good deed goes unpunished. Sure, I meant well — well, look at what well-meant did." She even doubts whether she ever wanted to be righteous: "Was I really seeking good or just seeking attention?"

"March of the Witch-Hunters"

Boq leads this song, in which an angry mob sets out to find and kill Elphaba. He blames her for being turned to tin, and he mentions some other characters who have "scores to settle" with Elphaba. One is the unseen Cowardly Lion; Boq claims Elphaba coddled him as a cub, causing his timidness.

"For Good"

The penultimate song in Wicked is a guaranteed tearjerker. Glinda and Elphaba meet one more time, where they realize Elphaba needs to flee Oz and Glinda needs to usher in a new era of good leadership — but they can never see each other again. They sing this heartfelt ballad about how they inspired each other to change: "You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And whatever way our stories end, I'll know you have rewritten mine by being my friend."

"Finale"

The finale of Wicked is yet another parallel to the opening number. We're back to the present moment, when the opening song is sung, and the Ozians are again singing, "Good news! No one mourns the wicked." Little do they know that Glinda is mourning Elphaba's "death."

Wicked is a fun, family-friendly musical, but the finale ends on a more bittersweet note than most. That's fitting for the musical, whose main theme is that multiple things can be true at once: A person can exist between wonderful and wicked, what's right and what's good aren't always clear-cut, and musicals can be both happy and sad — but that means they're all the more likely to stick with you for good.

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