Expectations are High For Movie Version of Wicked

Wicked will finally appear on the big screen on Christmas day 2024. That’s about 12 years after the film was said to be “in development,” 20 years after the musical’s Broadway premiere and 29 years since Gregory Maguire published  Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the novel from whence all the above grew.

And you still have to wait 20 more months to see it.

Think of all the time that has passed, and which will continue to pass, before this much-beloved musical makes the leap from stage to multiplex screen.

How many sophomore theater students will have sung “Defying Gravity” because it expressed their hopes and dreams for the future, or because somebody else was already singing that song from Waitress? How many Idina Menzel-type names will John Travolta decimate? On how many awards shows? The mind reels.

If you somehow weren’t already aware of this perfectly meme-able moment, we’ve got you covered (with a surprise appearance from the Queen of Genovia herself, Julie Andrews, to boot).

Expectations, already high, likely will grow even more demanding: “You’ve had 12 years. This better be good. I know where to find you – with the IMDB app.”

Fortunately, director Jon Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, In the Heights) knows there ain’t no half steppin’ where Wicked is concerned. He’s broadening his canvas  by telling the tale across two feature-length films. Part 1 premieres Christmas 2024, part two is set to follow exactly one year later.

How Wicked I will most likely end, save for the cute snail (though that would make the ending infinitely better).

Once Wicked I reaches movie theaters late next year, the age-old argument about which format is better can begin in earnest.  

The musical has had 20 years to ingratiate itself with audience after audience so there’s sure to be a contingent that finds the film lacking.

For many in the movie audience, however, the film will be their first exposure to this Wizard of Oz prequel. Depending on how Chu approaches the material, the stage production may seem bare-bones compared to the cinematic take.

And then there are the people who read the book before the musical premiered. And they never cease to remind you that they read the book before the musical premiered.

With Broadway and Hollywood helping themselves to each other’s hits, contemporary arguments come down to film vs. stage.

So which do you prefer – Disney’s animated Lion King, Frozen and The Little Mermaid or Disney’s Broadway productions of same? Chicago the musical or Chicago the movie?

Sometimes a title goes from film to stage and back to film. Kitschy 1988 hit Hairspray went from John Waters’ directed movie to Broadway hit to movie based on the Broadway show.  

How about The Producers, Mel Brooks’ 1967 comedy adapted for Broadway a mere 34 years later? A film based on the 2001 musical version only took four years to surface.

Will a new Wicked musical based on the film(s) hit the stage as a two-part, two-night extravaganza?

Will Hollywood and Broadway continue to try to one-up each other until every title that appears is a pop-song stuffed CGI and special effects riot whether on stage or screen?

Not likely, we hope. But we wouldn’t put it past anyone.

If Hollywood’s endless cycle of reboots, remakes and reimagining’s is any indication, literally nothing is off limits at this point.

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