Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“What Is This Feeling?”: A 20th anniversary “Wicked” retrospective

Is the classic musical’s longevity “For Good?”
Courtesy of Wikicommons

Imagine browsing YouTube during the early 2010s, back to when Vevo music videos and Minecraft tutorials were prevalent. Now picture those fan-made lyric videos that unironically used comic sans font in the thumbnail and had grainy sound quality.

For many fans of the musical “Wicked,” these lyric videos of songs like “Popular” were their first introduction. The Broadway hit is arriving at its 20th anniversary this year. For a musical that has been ongoing for decades, has its legacy left the same long-lasting impact as other acclaimed shows?

Though many recognize “Wicked” by name, most are not aware of its story or origins. Inspired by the “Wizard of Oz,” Gregory Maguire published a novel retelling of the classic tale back in 1995. Though the musical shortens the name, the novel’s full title is “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” Though there isn’t an official record on its sales, the 25th anniversary edition’s listing states that it is a “multi-million-copy-bestselling novel.” Though there is a high likelihood that many of these sales come from musical viewer interests, it is still an impressive feat to conquer. ”Wicked” follows the same plot structure, with some minor changes compared to the novel with character development and the setting.

The musical centers on Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda (or Galinda), the Good Witch of the North, as they embark on a journey through university. As the schooling hints, “Wicked” is the prelude to the “Wizard of Oz,” taking us through the witch’s lives and how their paths crossed. The two girls accidentally become roommates with one another, starting their relationship on rocky ground due to major differences. Without giving too much away, we learn the origins of Dorothy’s beloved friends and how the timeline of the “Oz”  story aligns with this prequel.

With any musical release, the cast recording and songs can make or break the production’s success. Tracks such as “What Is This Feeling?” “No One Mourns The Wicked,” “No Good Deed,” and as previously mentioned– “Popular” have millions of plays on Spotify. However, the most streamed song with over 124 million plays is the Act I closer, “Defying Gravity.”

This musical has also kickstarted many beloved actresses’ careers. Idina Menzel played the original Elphaba and won an award for “Best Actress in A Musical” at the 2004 Tony Awards. The musical itself won Tonys for “Best Costume Design” and “Best Scenic Design.” Besides the Tonys, the musical went on to win a range of awards during other ceremonies.

“Wicked” opened on Oct. 30, 2003, after previews starting in June earlier that year. Despite a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic when all Broadway shows ceased their performances, it is the fifth-longest running musical since Broadway’s creation. It passed “The Phantom of the Opera,” in earnings, making it the second-highest-grossing showfor Broadway. “The Phantom of the Opera seemed unstoppable on Broadway since it had outlasted time since the 80s. However, this year marks its unfortunate closing, while “Wickedremains intact.

In addition to their ongoing momentum, and after years of rumors, a movie adaptation is finally under development. The current plan is to release a duology for the movies, following the musical having an Act I and Act II. Directed by Jon M. Chu, who previously directed “Crazy Rich Asians,” the movie stares Broadway-veteran Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, with Ariana Grande as Glinda. Currently, the first movie is planned to release in theaters around Christmas time this year.

Although many musicals have come and gone, most have yet to stand the cultural test of time compared to “Wicked.” With the upcoming movie release, there could be a chance of a renaissance from the general public, one that could rise to the early 2000s heights. For the foreseeable future, no one will have to mourn the “Wickedmusical.

Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected].

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    EvanFeb 21, 2023 at 9:34 pm

    The Wicked movie part one is due out Christmas 2024.