Wicked Behind The Scenes Footage Reaction: The Epic Musical Is Even Bigger Than The Stage Show [CinemaCon 2023]

Stephen Schwartz's musical "Wicked" celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. An even greater milestone is on the horizon; "Part One" of the long-awaited film adaptation arrives in 2024. Directed by Jon M. Chu, the film retells the story of the musical, itself a retelling of prior tales. It's about the doomed friendship between two witches, Glinda (the future Good Witch of the South) and the green-skinned Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West.

"Wicked" began as a novel (written by Gregory Maguire), but Schwartz's musical is what made the story a modern classic. It's probably the most famous adaptation of L. Frank Baum's "Oz" mythos, discounting the beloved 1939 "Wizard of Oz" film.

Chu's film take will feature Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba and Ariana Grande as Glinda. Both are trained singers so by casting them, the movie is already off to a good start. After a first look at still images on April 16 courtesy of Chu's Instagram, Universal Pictures showed more of "Wicked" at CinemaCon 2023. /Film's Ben Pearson was on the ground and reported that the footage was of the movie and behind-the-scenes.

An epic 'Wicked' for the silver screen

The teaser opens with a magic class: Elphaba (with her green skin intact) is practicing sorcery while Madame Morrible (Michelle Yeoh) is trying to help her. The film's setting is a mix of practical and digital, with tunnels resembling Bag End from "The Lord of the Rings." Sites in the film range from castles to woods to the Emerald City itself.

Among other eye-catchers are Flying Monkeys, the Wizard of Oz himself (Jeff Goldblum), and behind-the-scenes footage of actors flying around on broomsticks. The setting also includes 9 million tulips, which the production actually planted instead of creating with CGI. "'Wicked' is about change," said Chu in the behind-the-scenes segments, "and it's necessary for things to get better."

It wouldn't be a musical trailer without some music, though. Glinda tells Elphaba she's beautiful and declares, "I've decided to make you my new project." That's the opening of "Popular," the second most, well, popular song on the "Wicked" soundtrack. The first is "Defying Gravity," and the footage offers a taste of Erivo and Grande singing and "crushing" that one too.

Pearson described this glimpse of "Wicked" as "huge" and "so epic." The passion that the cast and crew have for this project is obvious even just from a secondhand recounting of the footage.

"Wicked: Part One" releases on November 7, 2024.