Whether you’re a pop fiend, a show queen, or anything in between, chances are you have November 27 circled on your calendar. That’s the release date of the long-awaited film version of the beloved international hit musical Wicked, starring pop princess Ariana Grande as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, and Tony Award-winning diva Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. And that’s just part one! Director John Chu has split the film into two halves, with part two debuting Christmas of 2025.
It’s long been said in queer circles that the gay appeal of The Wizard of Oz owes itself to the fact that, at its core, it’s the story of two women who want to snuff each other out over a pair of shoes. So, it came as little surprise that in 2003 when the musical Wicked debuted on Broadway, queer audiences were happier than the Cowardly Lion getting his first makeover in the Emerald City. After all, what gay doesn’t love a good origin story? Especially one about a misunderstood underdog with green skin who looks great in black and can skywrite from a flying broom?
Based on Gregory Maguire’s best-selling 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the idea for a musical version came to veteran Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz, who read the book while on vacation in Hawaii.
Opening in 2003 during one of Broadway’s gayest seasons that saw two queer bio-musicals (the Peter Allen-inspired Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman and Boy George backstory Taboo), Wicked left critics lukewarm but was a hit with fans. It took home Tony Awards for Best Actress (Idina Menzel) and honors for scenic and costume design. The Best Musical that year went to very gay Avenue Q.
As the original Broadway production celebrates two decades on the Great White Way on October 30, and in advance of part one of the movie, Queerty looks back on some of the faces who defied gravity and made Wicked one of the most popular musicals of the 21st century.
Long before John Travolta mangled her name into Adele Dazeem, Let It Go singer Idina Menzel created the musicalized misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West, a role that would earn her a Tony.
Following Menzel on her broom were eventual Tony winners Stephanie J. Block (The Cher Show) and Lindsay Mendez (Carousel and now co-starring opposite Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliffe in Merrily We Roll Along) and a slew of other big-voiced belters including Eden Espinosa, Mandy Gonzales, SNL’s Ana Gasteyer, and Shoshana Bean, who will appear in the world premiere production of Alicia Keys’ musical Hell’s Kitchen at The Public Theater.
As the mechanical bubble-traveling Glinda, Tony, and Emmy Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth set the gold standard by which a parade of some of Broadway’s most talented comedic actresses would tackle the role of the frenemy turned best friend.
And it’s a big year for some Glinda alumni. Annaleigh Ashford (Welcome to Chippendales), who took over the role in 2007, is currently baking Josh Groban’s victims into meat pies in the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd. Alli Mauzy, who played the role numerous times between 2008 and 2014, is slaying audiences as narcissist mom Patti in 2023’s Tony-winning Best Musical Kimberly Akimbo. And Megan Hilty, who played Glinda in 2005, is preparing to step into Meryl Streep’s shoes in the Broadway-bound musical version of Death Becomes Her this spring in Chicago.
As the true villain of the piece, Broadway vet Carole Shelley sent chills down audiences’ spines when she originated the role of conniving headmistress Madame Morrible. Among those succeeding Shelley in the show’s most wicked role were Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan, original Dreamgirl and Abbott Elementary Emmy-winner Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Carol Kane. In 2021, Alexandra Billings (Transparent) made history as the first transgender actress to play a principal role on Broadway.
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When leading man Norbert Leo Butz took a medical leave of absence from Wicked shortly after the show opened, Idina Menzel’s then real-life hubby Taye Diggs stepped into the role of love interest Fiero and turned the role from quirky to thirsty. Butz would return to the part, but when he left, replacements would follow Diggs’ lead and turn up the heat. Among many notable Fiero replacements are New Kids on the Block alum Joey McIntyre, Tony winner Aaron Tveit (Moulin Rouge, Schmigadoon), and the first American Idol runner-up, Justin Guarini (who appeared in this season’s short-lived Britney Spears musical Once Upon a One More Time). And before he turned heads as a flamboyant American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert understudied the role on tour.
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Are you ready to hop on a broom and fly off to Oz? Watch some of our favorite Wicked moments…
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