Today we are continuing our analysis of the best Tony Awards clips of all time by featuring an entertainment behemoth that defied the odds - and defied critics and even gravity in the process - to become the biggest hit of the new millennium: the Oz-ian meta-musical by Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz, WICKED.
No other musical in the last ten years has had quite the impact on not only Broadway, but pop culture as a whole in quite the same way that WICKED has managed to since its rocky debut in 2003. No, WICKED was not a critical favorite and it was faced with many hurdles in its trek to the Great White Way - alterations as significant as whole songs being thrown out and a new Wizard being cast in place of Robert Morse; yet, it is far from unusual for an aborning musical to experience growing pains - but, after a few weeks of less-than-stellar sales, the word got out: WICKED was a hit - a really big hit. Gaining a vociferous, vocal fan base the likes of which no musical since RENT had acquisitioned, WICKED set flight following those first faith-trying weeks and managed to become one of the most lucrative musicals in history - as the West End, touring and various subsequent international productions all clearly (and greenly) attest. So, what is it exactly about the WIZARD OF OZ-related property known as WICKED that draws audiences in and keeps them coming back over and over again? Is it the magical atmosphere conjured up by esteemed director Joe Mantello and stalwart scenic designer Eugene Lee? Is it the epic, incomparably grand nature of the event in general - the massive sweep of it all? Is it the roof-raising vocal opportunities it provides for its leading ladies, G(a)linda and Elphaba (originally portrayed by 21st century divas Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, respectively)? Is it the total package taken together? Well, whatever it is, WICKED is a smash like none other this century and it seems outright fated destiny that we will be hearing the haunting and corrosive melodies of Schwartz’s sinuously endearing and earworm-filled score for many years - and even decades - to come, on Broadway all the way to galaxies far, far beyond this one; maybe even to Oz itself.
Now, see what the fuss was all about nearly a decade ago and get a glimpse of why all of Broadway was at Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth’s feet as a result of their absolutely unforgettable original turns as the witches of Oz - here, performing the most iconic moment from the internationally adored musical, the spine-tingling Act One Finale duet, “Defying Gravity”, introduced by the Broadway production's first Wizard of Oz himself, Joel Grey.
Following that, witness Idina Menzel’s heartfelt acceptance speech while accepting the award for Best Actress In A Musical, announced by super-director Rob Marshall, by clicking here.
Also, click through to see a bonus appearance by Kristin Chenoweth in character as G(a)linda - in her bubble; singing a bit, too - introducing 2004 Tony Awards host Hugh Jackman, here.
As a special bonus, check out this performance by GLEE’s Lea Michele and Chris Colfer of WICKED’s endearing final song, “For Good” - performed in the episode on the stage of the Gershwin Theatre - from the Season Two finale of Fox’s hit musical dramedy series GLEE; a finale duet which had its debut as a BroadwayWorld Exclusive World Premiere on this very site, as a matter of fact.
So, what is it about WICKED that speaks - and sings - most to you? What is it that sets your heart aflight? Is it the message of friendship and following your dreams that is so elemental to the themes of the show and the characters’ journeys? Or, is it the enveloping atmosphere of the original production conjured up by Mantello and company and the hypnotic, magical spell the show casts? Or, at the end of the day, is it the thrilling Stephen Schwartz songs? No matter what, whatever it is that compels you to return to WICKED again and again, it is most assuredly for good.