Warning: Spoilers for Wicked below! Proceed with caution.
After much rumor, speculation, innuendo and outuendo, the news that the smash hit musical Wicked will be adapted into a feature length film, set for release in December 2019, has sent fans rejoicifying from the rooftops.
But while the Wicked fanatics are busy celebrating as images of Elphaba and Galinda projected in cinemas dance through their heads, there's more than a few of us who seem to have missed the memo on this wildly popular show. And, aside from a vague idea of a Wizard of Oz tie-in and Idina Menzel in green face, many of us have little-to-no clue what Wicked is actually about.
We've got over two years before the #Wicked film is bound for theaters and by my calculations that's just enough time to explain the plot for this tale of the witches from the land of Oz. Grab your broomsticks and wands, and prepare yourself for the Wicked film with this helpful guide.
How does 'Wicked' fit in with 'The Wizard of Oz'?
Wicked is a sort of alternate telling of the film The Wizard of Oz, and is predominantly a prequel film, though covers some events during Dorothy's arrival in Oz. Wicked tells the story from long before her arrival, coming from the perspective of the witches from the land of Oz — the Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a Elphaba, and Glinda the Good Witch, whose name was originally Galinda.
The musical also involves many other characters from The Wizard of Oz, including Fiyero, who becomes the Scarecrow; Boq, who becomes the Tin Man; and a lion cub who goes on to become The Cowardly Lion. The Wicked Witch of the East is also a pretty major character who is known as Elphaba's sister, Nessarose, in Wicked.
What is 'Wicked' About?
While The Wizard of Oz is a story about a side which is clearly good and a side which is clearly evil, the story of Wicked goes beyond this, and allows us to understand the type of person the witches truly were, deconstructing the notion that a person is totally evil or totally good.
Much of Wicked takes place at Shiz University, which is attended by Elphaba, her wheelchair-bound sister Nessarose, and their beautiful and popular classmate, Galinda. Elphaba and Nessarose's father was the governor of Munchkinland, but her father despised Elphaba (possibly because her green-colored skin implied she was the result of an affair), and instead lavished his affection on Nessarose.
Elphaba and Galinda unexpectedly end up as roommates at university, and although they initially despise each other, eventually they become friends and are taught magic by the headmistress, Madame Morrible. But while their friendship is blossoming, there's something more sinister going on in Oz, with Animals (who are able to talk in the land of Oz) being discriminated against, and controlled so that they no longer develop the ability to speak. Elphaba is a fierce opponent of this new stance and becomes an animal activist, freeing a lion cub and standing up for the only Animal professor at the universal, Dr. Dillamond.
Eventually Elphaba learns that the person behind the Animal suppression is none other than her hero, the Wizard of Oz. After making this discovery — along with the fact that he is actually powerless and only wanted to work with Elphaba for her powers — she runs away to rebel against the wizard, while Galinda (now calling herself Glinda) stays behind to work with the wizard, ending their friendship. After Elphaba flees, rumors are spread that she's an untrustworthy and wicked witch.
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Over time Elphaba earns the title "The Wicked Witch of the West," and Glinda — who stuck with the Wizard and his oppressive regime — is known as "Glinda the Good." Elphaba's title is only cemented further when she attempts to save Boq, the munchkin Nessarose is in (unrequited) love with. After Nessarose accidentally shrinks Boq's heart in an attempt to make him love her (and earning her the title "The Wicked Witch of the East"), Elphaba manages to save him, though he is turned into a tin man in the process. Instead of Elphaba being thanked for saving Boq, she is vilified by her own sister.
In an attempt to force Elphaba to work with him, the Wizard, Glinda and Madame Morrible try to lure her to them by putting Nessarose in danger, though after Madame Morrible creates a dangerous cyclone, she actually ends up being killed by Dorothy Gale's flying house.
After all of this (plus a love triangle storyline involving Elphaba, Glinda and Fiyero), Elphaba decides to embrace her "wicked witch" title once and for all, and kidnaps Dorothy, refusing to release her until she gives up the ruby slippers — the last reminder she has of her sister, Nessarose. This prompts an angry mob to start hunting down Elphaba, in order to kill her and free Dorothy. Glinda, realizing that Madame Morrible was responsible for Nessarose's death, goes to warn her old friend about the mob. The pair reunite and forgive each other, though it's too late for Elphaba, who appears to melt into a puddle and die when Dorothy throws a bucket of water over her.
As the musical ends it's revealed that the Wizard was actually Elphaba's biological father, and that he is responsible for her green-colored skin. Glinda orders the wizard to leave Oz and sends Madame Morrible to prison for murdering Nessarose. Meanwhile, it's also revealed that Elphaba is alive, having faked her own death in order to leave Oz with her true love Fiyero and enjoy a more quiet life.
Why is 'Wicked' So Famous?
Adding context to one of the most famous movies (and books) in the world, Wicked was almost instantly a success story. The original Broadway run was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, and the original Elphaba, Idina Menzel (Glee, Frozen) and Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth (Glee, Pushing Daisies) were praised for their outstanding performances.
The star power of the original stars almost certainly helped Wicked's initial popularity, but more than that the musical is simply a spectacular. The set design is brilliant, the story is entertaining and the songs are catchy. In fact in 2016 Wicked became the fastest musical to gross $1 billion in just 12 and a half years, joining The Lion King (who did it in 16 years) and The Phantom of the Opera (who did it in 27 years). And now, in just a a few short years, it could be set to make as much at the box office when the film adaptation hits screens in December 2019.
Wicked flies into cinemas on December 20, 2019.
Are you excited to see the 'Wicked' movie?
(Poll image source: Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Maye)