Why ‘Wicked’ still bewitches after 20 years on Broadway

The current cast shares what the musical, which tells the backstory of the Wizard of Oz witches, means to them and audiences in celebration of the milestone.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Popular. That’s an understatement when it comes to Wicked. Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s much-loved musical has cast a spell on Broadway for two full decades and become a cultural phenomenon along the way.

The Wizard of Oz prequel marks its 20th anniversary on October 30, 2023 at the Gershwin Theatre, where the tale of two women – Elphaba, an outcast-turned-"wicked" witch, and Glinda, an in-crowd queen-turned-"good" witch — keeps on captivating. The story of how they support and change each other, even as the world pits them against each other for speaking out against wrongdoing, illuminates the meaning of true friendship.

For the big 2-0 of Wicked, now the fourth longest-running Broadway show ever, New York Theatre Guide asked current cast members to share their take on the show’s staying power – and the joys of being in the production for this milestone.

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Alyssa Fox (Elphaba)

Wicked has stayed so relevant for 20 years because it is a story so many of us can relate to. We have all felt like an outsider at one point or another, and it touches people to see that played out on stage. Elphaba’s journey is one of self-discovery, and the fact that audience members can see themselves in these characters can be incredibly moving.

The ability to sing these songs and tell this story every night in the most beautiful costumes is an extreme honor. And to get to share this stage with the most talented and wonderful performers will always stay with me. Playing Elphaba has been a complete blessing in my life.

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McKenzie Kurtz (Glinda)

Everyone can relate to this show, and ultimately, it’s the relationship between these two women, Glinda and Elphaba, that keeps people coming back for more. Add in some of the best music ever written, fabulous costumes, and one of the most iconic Broadway moments of all time – “Defying Gravity.”

I’ve dreamt of being in Wicked since I was about 9 years old. Every night I perform it feels like a gift to my childhood self.

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William Youmans (Doctor Dillamond)

The relationship between Elphaba and Glinda has become iconic in American theatre. Two young women find their power and overthrow a brutal regime. And they do it by being smart, funny, and charismatic, and also by the use of a little magic. Girl power.

The tone of the show is a perfect balance of dark and light, achieved by the collaboration of director Joe Mantello and choreographer Wayne Cilento on one hand, with composer Stephen Schwartz and book writer Winnie Holzman on the other. In short, Wicked gives people hope. It’s about overcoming limitations.

What I love most about being in the show is being connected with Elphaba. She has tremendous love and power.

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Michele Pawk (Madame Morrible)

Every element in Wicked is in brilliant service to the story – the exquisite score, design elements, direction, and choreography. And the messages at the heart speak to everyone. Practice kindness. Seek to do good. Embrace the possibility that your enemy might just be your ally.

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Jake Pedersen (Boq)

Wicked is a timeless story that continues to reflect our everyday world in new ways. It’s as if the words and songs take on new meaning each time you hear them. There is a piece of this show for everyone who sees it. The story is filled with complex relationships and plot lines that make it impossible to leave the theatre without feeling connected to it in some way.

I am very lucky to be a part of the legacy of Wicked and to work with the insanely talented humans that make it all possible.

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Kimber Elayne Sprawl (Nessarose)

Wicked is the perfect theatrical combination of heart and spectacle. Now it’s become a multigenerational and universal experience that is euphoric and nostalgic. And every single song is a bop!

I love witnessing the heartfelt reactions of someone seeing the show for the first time or the 50th. Yes, someone told me they’ve seen Wicked 50 times.

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Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Photo credit: The 20th anniversary cast of Wicked on Broadway. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

Originally published on

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