15 fun facts about Wicked

Posted on 28 September 2021

The Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning musical opened at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre 15 years ago to the day. The production will play a celebratory performance, which will be attended by composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz along with former cast members. The beloved musical has released new production images to mark the occasion. Wicked tickets are currently booking until 22 May 2022.

To celebrate each of the 15 years that Wicked has been in the West End, we have shared 15 fun facts about the show.

15. Wicked has received over 100 international awards

The hit musical has won a vast array of awards including two Olivier Awards and 10 WhatsOnStage Awards such as ‘Best Musical’ and three-time ‘Best West End Show’.

14. The Wicked Witch wasn’t always named Elphaba

In fact, the Wicked Witch didn’t have a name in the original Oz book series by L. Frank Baum and wasn’t given a name until 1996 when Gregory Maguire wrote the novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ which is a reworked exploration of the Wizard of Oz characters. Maguire was inspired by the Oz series’ author’s initials L.F.B from which he coined Elphaba.

13. Stephen Schwartz got the idea for Wicked on holiday

Lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Godspell) was on holiday in Hawaii in 1996 when a friend mentioned they were reading Gregory Maguire’s novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’. Intrigued by the origins of the Wicked Witch, Schwartz picked up a copy himself and was instantly hooked. When returning home he immediately phoned his lawyer in order to obtain the rights.

12. The Elphaba before Idina Menzel

It is well-known that Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba but before she made the world fall in love with the Wicked Witch, there was someone else… Stephanie J. Block read the part whilst the show was in development before being replaced by Menzel. However, Block did, later on, take on the role for the first national tour in 2005.

11. Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in the West End too!

Menzel was the first to paint her face green and played the role of Elphaba both in the original Broadway cast and the original West End cast. Menzel played the role in London for three months and won a theatregoer voted WhatsOnStage for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’. Kerry Ellis took over the role from Menzel in 2007.

10. The production is both powerful and requires a lot of power

Wicked requires a lot of power per performance and uses enough electricity per show to power 12 homes! The show also uses 250 pounds of dry ice to create impressive fog.

9. Idina Menzel’s Elphaba audition wasn’t an all-round success

It was reported that during her audition for Elphaba, Menzel’s voice cracked when trying to hit the high note in ‘Defying Gravity’. Menzel was convinced that she had ruined her chances of landing the role but both Schwartz and Joe Mantello were impressed with her magical performance – and thankfully she was cast!

8. Wicked pays tribute to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’

The recognisable ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz can be found in the first few notes of ‘Unlimited / I’m Limited’ theme. Schwartz uses the first seven notes, even though they are used in a different chord, harmonised differently, etc, to pay homage to the show’s roots.

7. Wicked didn’t initially impress the critics

When the show first previewed, critics didn’t see the magic of the show and even wished for a pair of ruby slippers! Schwartz and Winnie Holzman spent three months reworking the show before its Broadway premiere and thankfully the adjustments paid off.

6. Wicked was a box office hit from the off

It took Wicked just 14 months to make back the $14 million investment it took to make the show. The average for even the most successful of shows to recoup the initial investment is 2 to 3 years.

5. Wicked is platinum as well as green

To this date, the Grammy Award-winning Original Broadway Cast album has sold nearly 4 million copies!

4. ‘Defying Gravity’ has been played in space

NASA has used the Wicked number as a wake-up call for its astronauts in space – fitting!

3. 10 million people have seen Wicked in London

Wicked is one of the most popular musicals of our time and has been seen by more than 10 million people at the London production, with a whopping total of 60 million worldwide!

2. Wicked is being adapted into a film

There have been various rumours about this stage to screen adaptation but it has been given the green light. The film will be directed by Jon M. Chu (In The Heights) but it is all under shadows about when production begins…

1. Wicked is the 5th longest-running musical currently playing in the West End

It has played over 5,500 performances in the West End so far! 

By Jade Ali

A love for theatre stemmed from my love of literature and music, but the West End on my doorstep opened up a whole new appreciation and passion for all things stage-y