Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande Are Bewitching in First Footage From ‘Wicked’

CinemaCon: The first part of Jon M. Chu’s two-part adaptation of the Broadway classic defied gravity and wowed audiences

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

In what’s a shockingly early first look, Universal brought “Wicked: Part One” to CinemaCon audiences.

The rough and unfinished footage opened with a young green witch trying to master her magical training and being told by instructor Michelle Yeoh she needs to harness her emotions. The footage was mixed in with the filmmakers talking about how and why they made the movie. We get solid looks at all the major cast members, including plenty of interaction between Erivo and Grande as the former has a complicated reaction to a gesture of friendship. “Maybe, some of us are just different.” We get a bit of grand dancing, Emerald City production values (nine million real tulips planted) and flying monkey action scenes.

The final montage of fantastical (and source-faithful) images are, of course, set to the chorus of “Defying Gravity.”

“Wicked,” also known as “Wicked: Part One,” will be directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz. Set for release on November 27, 2024, it is the first of a two-part film adaptation of their stage musical of the same name, which was created by Holzman and Schwartz. It is based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.”

Along with Cynthia Erivo (as the future Wicked Witch of the West) and Ariana Grande (as the future Good Witch of the North), “Wicked” will feature Jonathan Bailey, Ethan Slater, Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Yeoh.

It has been nearly seven years since Universal first announced a “Wicked” movie, during which time “Wicked” has passed “Phantom of the Opera” as the second-biggest-grossing Broadway show (well over $3 billion) ever behind “The Lion King.” It is the fourth-longest musical in Broadway history.

Grande and Erivo won’t just be playing generic characters from “The Wizard of Oz” but rather specific and popular incarnations from both the Stephen Schwartz stage show (including the songs) and Gregory Maguire’s novels. It’s probably the closest thing going to Disney’s recent fairy tale fantasy blockbusters in terms of adapting a specific incarnation of the well-known source material. 

“Wicked” should avoid the grim fate of Tom Hooper’s “Cats”, as A) audiences like “Wicked” as opposed to just being aware of it and B) the show is centered on marquee human characters versus anthropomorphic animals. That doesn’t mean it should have been split into two parts, but that’s a conversation for another day.

“Wicked” will open at the end of next year, where it will join the likes of “Sweeney Todd,” “Les Miserables,” “Pitch Perfect 3,” “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land” in being a big musical that scored good-to-great box office over the holiday season. In other words, it won’t have to defy gravity to be a hit.