Wicked, the Broadway musical that serves as a semi-prequel to The Wizard of Oz, continues down the metaphorical yellow brick road leading to its official movie adaptation. Now it’s taken a giant leap toward the Emerald City by casting its two most major roles, as pop icon Ariana Grande and acclaimed English actor Cynthia Erivo as Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, respectively.
Based on the book by Gregory Maguire, Wicked tells of the friendship that existed between the two witches prior to the events of The Wizard of Oz. They started as college roommates (this is all news to me) before Elphaba discovers the titular Wizard has been imprisoning animals and is a fraud. When Elphaba vows to stop him, the Wizard’s press secretary Madame Morrible announces Elphaba is a “wicked” witch. Suffice it to say, the Wicked Witch of the West is less unequivocally evil than the 1939 movie has led you to believe.
The casting news comes via Variety. Grande, of course, rose to fame as Cat Valentine in the Nickelodeon series Victorious before becoming the best-selling, Grammy-winning, immensely popular pop superstar. Erivo, who is a mere Oscar away from an EGOT, originated the role of Chenice in the English musical I Can’t Sing! (she can sing) before making her Broadway debut in The Colour Purple.
A Wicked movie has theoretically been in the works since 2004, with one announced to premiere in 2019. However, that fell apart with the departure of director Stephen Daldry due to scheduling conflicts, and the release date was given instead to the movie adaptation of the musical Cats, and we all know how that worked out. Currently, Jon M. Chu — director of Crazy Rich Asians and the recent movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights — has been tapped to direct Wicked, which starts production next summer.