Wicked the musical draws its inspiration from Gregory Maguire's best-selling novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which tells the same story as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but from the perspective of the witches. With songs and lyrics composed by Stephen Schwartz and a book penned by Emmy Award-winning writer Winnie Holzman, the Broadway musical has been massively successful.
Set before and during Dorothy's time in Kansas, it is the story of the friendship between Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda, later Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. The two witches struggle with their conflicting views and shared love interest, as well as the corruption of the Wizard's world.
Having premiered at San Francisco's Curran Theatre in May 2003, Wicked was quickly promoted to Broadway's Gershwin Theatre only five months later with a star-studded cast featuring Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, and Joel Grey as the Wizard.
Despite receiving mixed reviews, the original Broadway production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, with three wins, plus six Drama Desk wins. Box office records around the globe have been shattered by its stagings in Los Angeles, Chicago, London, San Francisco, Germany, Japan, and Australia, as well as national tours across North America.
Schwartz first came across Maguire's novel in 1995 and convinced the author, in 1998, to grant him stage rights. Though the duo kept to Maguire's original world view, they took considerable license with the actual storyline. That was the road they saw to best adapt it to the stage.
Holzman told Playbill, "It was [Maguire's] brilliant idea to take this hated figure and tell things from her point of view, and to have the two witches be roommates in college, but the way in which their friendship develops – and really the whole plot – is different onstage. Primarily we were interested in the relationship between Galinda – who becomes Glinda – and Elphaba...the friendship of these two women and how their characters lead them to completely different destinies.”
The story, songs, and lyrics evolved through a series of developmental readings that included Chenoweth as Galinda and Stephanie J. Block as Elphaba prior to Menzel's casting in 2001. Even before that, New York producer David Stone was brought in to helm to project toward the Great White Way. Director Joe Mantello was eventually recruited, as was Wayne Cilento to handle the musical staging and Tony Award-winning designer Eugene Lee to create the sets.
The San Francisco trial run lasted a month before the team went about retooling things for Broadway. Since it opened, Wicked has consistently grossed over $1 million each week at the box office, making it one of the two highest weekly grossing shows.
Because of its enormous popularity, a film adaptation is rumored to be in the works.