The hit musical, Wicked, has been drawing crowds at the George Gershwin Theatre since it first opened on Broadway in 2003. It took the whole world by storm, starting with New York City, where it grossed over $56 million in its first 12 months. And this April the Gershwin Theatre’s hit musical made New York Broadway history. On Tuesday, April 11, Wicked played its 7,486th performance, displacing Cats in the rankings as Broadway’s fourth-longest running production. The longest is still Phantom of the Opera, followed by Chicago and then The Lion King.
The years of Broadway success haven’t dimmed the appeal of this ‘Return to Oz’ story, but only made it greater. 30th October 2023 marks Wicked’s 20th anniversary, encompassing two decades of successful tours and long runs in cities around the world. Since its first Broadway success at the Gershwin in NYC, Wicked has been seen in 16 countries and over 100 cities. The songs and script have been performed in six global languages. Wicked has been running in London’s West End since 2006, where it’s climbing the top ten of the UK’s longest-running musical shows.
After taking Broadway by storm, almost 65 million people around the world have been bewitched by Wicked, with global ticket sales topping $5 billion. The show was also nominated for 10 Tony Awards, of which it won three, and considered by Entertainment Weekly to be the best stage musical of the 2000-2010 decade. The show resonates across linguistic and age barriers, demonstrating wonderful enthusiasm and encouragement. The performances are engaging and powerful, attracting top performers to give it their all at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway.
Wicked – the story
Ever since the iconic movie was released in 1939, people have loved The Wizard of Oz. The fact that it’s been shown every year on TV for decades attests the enduring attraction of the characters. In a fascinating prequel to the original hit, Wicked tells us what happened in the imaginary land before the arrival of Dorothy. Though there’s no sign of the yellow brick road, it soon becomes apparent that we’re in the mythical land of Oz.
Here we find Elphaba, a talented young woman born with green skin. She’s the classic underdog who’s despised by her father and shunned by her schoolmates. When she meets the school’s star personality, Galinda, she immediately poses a threat to the popular blonde. Galinda (later just Glinda) is an archetypal spoiled darling, who expects everyone and everything to fall into her lap. The clash of styles and personalities begins with rivalry, but develops into an unlikely friendship.
After the initial competitiveness between Elphaba and Galinda, the story explores the development and ultimate collapse of their friendship, as external forces tear it apart. Through honest mistakes and a touch of magic, Elphaba is eventually perceived as ‘wicked.’ There is the inevitable struggle for the male hero, Fiyero, and a touch of actually wicked deceit and betrayal. Eventually, the triumphant Glinda will be known as The Good Witch, while the spurned Elphaba morphs into The Wicked Witch of the West.
Wicked – the message
Wicked draws the audience into a recognizable world of social relationships. Pretty little rich girls expect to get their own way, while those who don’t fit the social stereotype are mocked and rejected. Through no fault of their own, smart and talented young women can easily be misunderstood. The cleverly woven plot also encourages the audience to explore the notion of wickedness and malicious intent.
You’ll find several familiar features in Wicked, those lovable characters from the Land of Oz who’ve been charming audiences for over 80 years. We’ve got magic shoes and a hero who’s turned into a scarecrow, plus a tin man and the cowardly lion. Among munchkins and flying apes, the Emerald City and, of course, the Wizard, even Dorothy gets a mention. They’re all part of a plot that involves the importance of skin color, love triangles, discrimination and the quintessential divide between good and evil. Wicked brings social problems right to the fore, especially the fight of perceived outsiders to succeed on their own merits.
Why is Wicked so popular?
Wicked’s popularity is founded on its memorable music and its originality. The Broadway musical offers a unique point of view, despite being a new spin on such a well-known tale. It offers a fresh approach that resonates with audiences of all backgrounds and ages. Its bold storytelling style has been much praised, with comedic performances that appeal to modern sensibilities. It offers some social commentary on environmental and animal rights issues, while yet maintaining a strong sense of pantomime. There are fabulous costumes, stunning dances, soaring arias – and magic!
The story is captivating, with characters that everyone can relate to. The music is memorable and catchy, carrying a strong message about tolerance and acceptance. Critics have described Wicked as “a perfect blend of pop, rock, and musical theater.” Some of our era’s favorite songs have come out of the score, such as The Wizard and I, Defying Gravity, and No One Mourns the Wicked. Their appeal to universal concerns have taken off outside the boundaries of Wicked, to become anthems of the underdog, and empowering women the world over.
The evolution of Wicked
The original Wizard of Oz story has seen several transformations, from a novel written in 1900 to the iconic 1939 movie. The 2003 Wicked musical was a new departure that took New York by storm, and it’s evolved through many changes of cast. The music and lyrics for the popular Broadway show were both penned by Stephen Schwartz, in collaboration with script-writer Winnie Holzman. Yet more Wicked fun is on the horizon, too, with a film in development at Universal Studios.
The popularity of Wicked is undeniable. The show offers something for everyone, whether you’re a musical comedy fan, adore The Wizard of Oz, or just love a night out on Broadway. It’s funny, it’s spectacular, with a broad appeal that resonates with all audiences. For an excellent night of musical entertainment, you can’t do better than Wicked @ Gershwin Theatre NYC.