A Witchy Cupcake Creation

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WICKED by Stephan Lee (for Entertainment Weekly)

On the long yellow brick road from page to stage, the Broadway musical Wicked encountered its fair share of flying monkeys: years of development, technical challenges, and the burden of reimagining characters from one of the most beloved stories of all time, The Wizard of Oz. But the show’s creative team saw a spark the first time Elphaba, the pre-Dorothy Wicked Witch of the West, appeared in front of an audience. “It’s weird, but the moment the green girl came out, the audience was just over-the-top with their applause,” says producer Marc Platt.

Few could have predicted the gravity-defying heights Wicked would reach in its evolution from Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel to one of the biggest hits in Broadway history. Credit goes to a hook-filled score by composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin); director Joe Mantello’s eye-popping production, which made witches and monkeys seem to fly; and star turns by the original leads: Idina Menzel (Rent) as the emerald-skinned loner Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown) as the popular blond “good witch” Glinda. “To be honest with you, the reviews were mixed,” recalls Chenoweth. “But oh my God, the audiences showed up. They showed up!”

In its 10 years at the Gershwin Theatre (and in productions in 13 countries), Wicked has reached 38 million theatergoers and grossed $3.1 billion. The show turned out to be a smart investment for the studio that bought the rights to Maguire’s book envisioning a non-musical film. “It’s the most profitable project in terms of profit margins in Universal Pictures’ history,” says Platt. (He says a film version of the musical is still in development.) Let’s head back to the early days with Wicked’s main cast and crew to learn how this phenomenon took flight.

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