Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande to Star in Jon M Chu’s ‘Wicked’ Adaptation

Movie based on Broadway smash will begin production in 2022

Wicked Cynthia Erivo Ariana Grande
Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande (Credit: Universal/Dave Meyers)

Grammy and Tony winner Cynthia Erivo and pop star Ariana Grande will star in a feature film adaptation of the billion-dollar Broadway hit “Wicked,” directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Universal Pictures announced Thursday.

“Wicked” is now in development, with filming intended to begin in summer 2022 in the United Kingdom.

Written by Winnie Holzman with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, “Wicked” has continuously been in production since 2003 and is the 11th longest-running Broadway show of all time. Seen by more than 60 million people at productions all over the world, it surpassed more than $1 billion in revenues in 2016 — one of only three Broadway plays to achieve that milestone. The original Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Idina Menzel, who originated the starring role.

The musical is itself based on the acclaimed 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire. A retelling of the story of Frank L. Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” from the perspective of the Wicked Witch, the book tracks the life of Elphaba — the Witch’s true name — from her unhappy childhood to her eventual emergence as Dorothy Gale’s nemesis.

In between, we see her awkward youth, her magical education and involvement in radical politics and her ultimately tragic descent into nihilistic futility as she finds her goals thwarted and relationships doomed. Complicating things is Elphaba’s close friendship — and eventual falling out — with college roommate Glinda, who will eventually be known as the Good Witch of the North.

Erivo will play Elphaba, while Grande will play Glinda.

Marc Platt will produce through his Universal-based Marc Platt Productions, with Erik Baiers, senior executive vice president of production, and Lexi Barta, vice president of production development, overseeing for Universal.