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Wicked - A Brief history

Stephen Schwartz Meets Gregory Maguire to Acquire Rights to Wicked

Stephen Schwartz meets Gregory Maguire

In 1996, Stephen Schwartz heard about Wicked the novel and knew instantly he wanted to write a stage musical based on the book. Gregory Maguire was among the people he had to convince that a stage musical would work. The two took a walk together in Connecticut in 1998. Fortunately Maguire agreed to release the rights for stage.

A Musical Takes Shape

In reading through the novel, Schwartz developed his concepts for how to expand on Gregory's conception for a Wizard of Oz story prior to Dorothy's arrival. He thought about how to make the multiple storylines work on stage. Schwartz asked Winnie Holzman to write the book for the musical and the two began a year of periodic meetings with lead producer Marc Platt. They worked out the structural outline for the show, spinning an original stage piece rather than a strict adaptation of Maguire's work.

The musical was developed and tested through a series of readings. New York producer David Stone joined the team in early 2000 after watching a reading at Universal Studios featuring Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda. He began to draw in the practical elements necessary for a full Broadway. Joe Mantello came in as director and this new team began auditioning designers. In April 2003 the Original Broadway Cast assembled for final rehearsal.

Meanwhile, Holzman and Schwartz had been revising the script and score. Schwartz tested a new song that depicted how the future witches of Oz despised each other when first thrown together as roommates. The first version didn't work, but finally he came up with "What is This Feeling," which is musically inspired, in part, by "Nobody's Side" from Chess and by the songs of Sting.

San Francisco Pre-Broadway Trial

No one had seen Wicked on stage before dress rehearsals. Finally all the design elements, acting, music development, and story work all came together. When the first preview audience saw it, they laughed, cried, applauded. At the end, they gave the actors and musical a huge standing ovation. Wicked's creative team knew they had a possible hit, yet there was still much to be fixed.

The song that seemed least successful when seen in context of the show was "Which Way's the Party." Over the summer, Schwartz reconceived it and developed "Dancing Through Life."

Therefore when the cast came back to rehearsals in New York after a brief break, they had a major dance number to learn. Some of the costumes had to be redesigned as well.


The critics were not allowed to comment on the show until it had been in previews for about three weeks, undergoing final fixes. By opening night, word of mouth about the show was snowballing and ticket sales rising. Although the audiences welcomed Wicked, the critics were mixed in their reaction. Yet there was enough positive audience street buzz and critical praise and to propell Wicked into Broadway hit status, especially after the cast album became available.

--Carol de Giere

Defying Gravity

Read the complete history of Wicked as a musical in the Stephen Schwartz biography

Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked

The book includes 14 chapters on the making of Wicked, with interview quotes from Stephen Schwartz, Winnie Holzman, director Joe Mantello, Idina Menzel, and more.

It includes photos and many never-before-told stoires.

"Wicked: The Road to Broadway"

Broadway DVD featuring Wicked historyThe DVD version of this landmark new PBS documentary about Broadway includes, among others, bonus features: "Wicked: The Road to Broadway" (16 minutes) and rehearsal of "For Good." Enjoy interview clips and footage from the colorful production of Wicked. See stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel in rehearsal and backstage, interviews with Stephen Schwartz, Winnie Holzman, Idina, Kristin, Norbert, the design team, and others.

This DVD includes about five-minutes from a rehearsal of "Which Way's the Party," the song cut during Wicked's Pre-Broadway trial. So you can compare it with the replacement song, "Dancing Through Life."

ORDER in the USA Broadway: The American Musical
ORDER in the UK Broadway: The American Musical-

Wicked shop

Find Wicked logo items and much more. UK - Wicked Shop or USA Wicked Shop
Carol's Wicked UK Site. Carol is also webmaster for the official fan site for Wicked's composer Stephen Schwartz