17 years ago, on October 8, 2003, the now iconic Broadway show, Wicked, opened at the Gershwin Theater. It starred Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth as the witches of Oz, singing a musical by Stephen Schwartz. Since that fall evening, the show has gone on multiple national tours, been performed in 15 countries around the world, and been translated into six different languages. So, hold onto your broomsticks, here’s five swankified facts about Wicked.
1. Wicked is flying into the record books.
Wicked is now the 5th longest running show in Broadway history with 6,839 performances. Cats is the 4th longest running show in history with 7,485 performances. However, if you look at shows that are still currently running, that puts Wicked in 4th place, behind The Lion King, Chicago, and The Phantom of the Opera.
2. Ben Brantley felt nothing but loathing, unadulterated loathing, for Wicked.
The recently retired Ben Brantley famously raked Wicked over the coals with his NY Times review. “Wicked, he wrote, “wears its political heart as if it were a slogan button. This is true not only of the dialogue, but also of Mr. Schwartz’s generically impassioned songs, which have that to-the-barricades sound of the ominously underscored anthems of Les Misérables.” (To be clear, the Les Mis reference was not a compliment.)
3. The show suffered a Wicked loss…
Wicked racked up a whopping 10 Tony nominations, including “Best Musical,” but only took home three: Best Actress in a Musical (Idina Menzel — who beat out costar Kristin Chenoweth for the title), Best Scenic Design (Eugene Lee), and Best Costume Design (Susan Hilferty). In a famous upset, Wicked lost the coveted categories of Best Original Score, Best Book AND Best Musical to Avenue Q. It sucks to be Wicked.
4. But it was still popular from the start.
Not every Broadway show recoups it’s original investment. In fact, only about 1 in 5 productions manages to make the money back that was put in to get the musical running. Wicked, however, was a hit among audience members from the start. The musical earned back the $14 million investment in just 14 months!
5. The weight of the world (i.e. their dresses!).
Both Glinda and Elphaba have some incredible dresses in the show. Not only are they iconic but they are also incredibly heavy. Elphaba’s famous Act 2 dress weighs in at about 25lbs. How does she fly with all that extra weight? Well, magic of course. However, Glinda’s bubble dress weighs even more than that, clocking in at nearly 33lbs! Pretty much every actress who has played either of those leading roles admits that learning to sing, dance, and act while clad in these heavy ensembles is one of the most challenging aspects of the gig.
6. NASA’s “Defying Gravity” Too
When astronauts are in space, Mission Control actually sends them a wakeup call each morning by playing a song. Some songs are requests from the crew members, while others are space-themed or related to tasks planned for the day. Well, NASA released their list of wakeup call songs and on April 8, 2010, Mission Control decided to play “Defying Gravity” (get it?!) — we love this so very much.
7. The green queen is headed to the silver screen.
Universal Pictures confirmed that a Wicked movie-musical, is, finally, in the works. Stephen Daldry, of Billy Elliot fame, is set to direct. Ariana Grande and Dove Cameron are rumored to be set to star, but the release date has been pushed back from its initial timing of December 2021 (due to COVID delays), so it may be a while before we know all the details!