“Hocus Pocus” Witches Headed to Broadway

Wicked, the phenomenally popular musical about the witches of Oz, returns to The Straz March 8-26. Tickets go on sale, appropriately, on Halloween.

Premiering in 2003, Wicked has become one of the longest-running productions in Broadway history.

However, those Wicked witches might be getting some company.

Elphaba and Glinda will have to make room for the zany and bloodthirsty Sanderson sisters because witch-comedy flick Hocus Pocus is being adapted for the stage.

David Kirschner, co-producer of the original 1993 film, didn’t provide a lot of detail when he spoke to podcast The Art of Kindness. But he did confirm that “they are building a Broadway version of Hocus Pocus.”

That news comes hot on the heels of the premiere of a sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, on Disney+.

The sequel and upcoming Broadway production testify to the movie’s popularity.

And while Hocus Pocus has yet to hit the stage, both the original film and sequel are packed with theatrical firepower thanks to the trio of actresses who play the Sandersons.

Winifred Sanderson is played by Bette Midler. While Midler’s career has focused more on movies and music than theater, her first big break was the role of Tzeitel in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. Midler was in the cast from 1966-1969.

More recently, though, Midler has returned to and found acclaim on Broadway. She starred in the title role of the 2017 revival of Hello, Dolly!, earning a Tony® for her efforts. (She needs only an Oscar® to complete her EGOT foursome.)

Bette Midler as matchmaker Dolly Levi in Broadway classic Hello, Dolly!

While that was her first appearance in a traditional musical role since Fiddler, Midler has performed her own shows on Broadway, such as 1979’s Divine Madness. She’s also been active behind the scenes, producing the 2011 stage version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Kathy Najimy, who plays middle sister Mary, starred as Mae West on Broadway in Dirty Blonde. She’s also gained acclaim as a playwright and performer in off-Broadway works such as The Kathy and Mo Show, which she wrote and performed with Mo Gaffney.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays youngest sister Sarah. Parker made it to Broadway before she made it to high school, debuting at age 11 in a 1976 revival of The Innocents before taking over the lead role of Annie in 1979.

She returned to Broadway in the ‘90s for revivals of Once Upon a Mattress and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. This year saw her and husband Matthew Broderick starring in a revival of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite.

Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick performing in Plaza Suite.

The threesome played sister-witches, executed 300 years previous in Salem, Mass., who are inadvertently summoned to modern day Salem where they prey upon the children of the town. 

Hocus Pocus was no one’s bet to become a beloved family favorite upon its release in 1993. Box office returns were lackluster while reviews were scathing, a rare failure for Disney during its ‘90s hot streak.

Two years later, though, Disney acquired the ABC television network. Hocus Pocus became a Halloween perennial on both ABC and The Disney Channel, airing multiple times during October on Freeform.

In this standout sequence from the original film, the Sanderson Sisters bewitch (literally) partygoers with a performance of “I Put a Spell on You”.

The movie developed a cult following, if cult is the right word to describe a film that drew almost 3 million viewers for a 2011 airing.

The movie’s late-blooming popularity spurred Disney to make a sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, with Midler, Najimy and Parker returning as the funny and frightful Sanderson sisters. The film, which includes flashbacks as the sisters as children, debuted on Disney+ in late September and is available for streaming.

The young Sanderson sisters as seen in Hocus Pocus 2. Good to know they’ve kept the same hairstyles after all these years!

Now, Hocus Pocus is headed for the stage. Will the Sandersons’ magic work as well on Broadway as it (eventually) did on screen? Will it challenge Wicked as Broadway’s best-loved witch tale, setting up a Salem v. Oz showdown/throwdown?

Keep your broomsticks crossed.

Winifred is not amused by our witchy wordplay.

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