How "Wicked" Keeps "The Wizard of Oz" Alive

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A prequel to L. Frank Baum's novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and the 1939 film adaptation, this 2013 3D fantasy adventure follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, as he's whisked away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking.
March 8th, 2013

How "Wicked" Keeps "The Wizard of Oz" Alive

The contemporary Broadway musical "Wicked" is the latest incarnation of "The Wizard of Oz" story. Since its inception in the late 1990s, "Wicked" has drawn in new audiences and brought renewed attention to the residents of Oz. For fans of the original movie, the musical adds extra depth and dimension to the story of Dorothy and her fanciful friends.

"Wicked" is based on a novel called "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." The novel was written in 1995 by Gregory Maguire and was intended to be a parallel story to the original "The Wizard of Oz" movie. It follows two of the most memorable characters from "The Wizard of Oz," the good witch, Glinda, and the wicked witch of the west, Elphaba.

Where "The Wizard of Oz" follows Dorothy Gale and her interactions with the two witches, "Wicked" tells their back stories. It begins when the two witches meet at school and discover that their personalities clash. As they develop an unlikely friendship, Galinda (who will eventually become Glinda) and Elphaba find that fate is leading them in dramatically different directions. Eventually, their destinies lead them to the roles they occupy in "The Wizard of Oz."

Composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz developed the musical in the late 1990s and early 2000s. "Wicked" opened on Broadway in 2003 after being shown in preview performances in San Francisco. Since its opening, the musical has grown in popularity and become one of the longest-running shows on Broadway.

"Wicked" uses a potent combination of star power, costumes, and familiar characters to keep "The Wizard of Oz" craze alive. The musical has something for everyone, which keeps crowds flocking to the box office years after its original release. From young children to older adults, "Wicked" inspires a renewed interest in the characters from Oz.

Fans of the original story delight in seeing their favorite childhood characters in new situations. The book covers the Wizard's corrupt government, the unusual friendship between the legendary witches, and the fates of several other popular characters. As the musical unfolds, audiences discover how each piece of the story connects to bring the characters to their places in "The Wizard of Oz."

Die-hard Broadway fans are often fascinated by the musical's star-studded history. During the development of the musical, Schwartz made the calculated decision to bring star power into the mix. He brought on Broadway stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel to play Galinda and Elphaba, while movie and stage legend Joel Grey was hired to play the Wizard. In the beginning of its run, "Wicked" drew in audiences who were interested in seeing Chenoweth, Menzel, and Grey on the same stage.

To top off the winning combination of characters and performers, Schwartz created a stunning visual experience. "Wicked" uses dramatic sets and employs theatrical techniques that are designed to thrill audiences. At the end of the first act, Elphaba rises above the stage on wires to perform her show-stopping number, "Defying Gravity." Characters use fire, smoke, and flying devices to delight viewers. With moving sets, bright lights, and dramatic costumes, "Wicked" is an exciting experience for audiences of all ages.

Since its release in 2003, "Wicked" has only grown in popularity. Part of its continued appeal is due to its music, which has a distinctly modern feel. For audiences who find it difficult to relate to traditional Broadway musicals, "Wicked" is much more approachable. This is particularly true for younger music and theater fans who delight in the powerhouse vocals and modern riffs that are spread throughout the show. In addition, the humor in "Wicked" is more contemporary than many Broadway shows, making it more accessible for today's audiences.

The craze for Galinda, Elphaba, and the Wizard has spread across the world. Productions of "Wicked" have been launched in London, and touring companies regularly take the show around the globe. The recordings have sold well worldwide, and new international productions are launched regularly. Each production has seen a positive audience response and high box office numbers.

With the fanatic interest in "Wicked" comes a renewed interest in the original story of Dorothy and the witches of Oz. Themes from the musical and the original story have found their way into numerous popular culture outlets, including movies and television shows. The sets and characters from the Broadway musical have even been featured in sitcoms like "Ugly Betty." In 2013, the Disney movie "Oz the Great and Powerful" will offer viewers yet another side of the story.

As the interest in "Wicked" grows, viewers will undoubtedly have numerous opportunities to explore the land of Oz. From the original film with Dorothy and her loyal companions to the most recent Disney movie, the craze for "The Wizard of Oz" is likely to push ahead at full strength for years to come.