Wicked (theatre)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.

The Musical adaptation of Gregory Maguire's novel, Wicked is the story of Elphaba, who will one day become the Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, that Wicked Witch.

Elphaba was born with green skin after her mother had an encounter with a traveling stranger. Her mother later dies giving birth to Elphaba's sister, Nessarose, who is wheelchair bound.

When Elphaba is older, she goes to school at Shiz, and is roomed with the pretty, popular Galinda. At first the two girls hate each other.

Suddenly, the shallow Prince Fiyero storms in and arranges a party. Galinda sets Nessa up with her Stalker with a Crush, Boq, and gives Elphaba her signature hat. When Elphaba gets ridiculed, Galinda takes pity on her and gives her a makeover. The two girls then become friends.

Things change, however, when Professor Dillamond, their Talking Animal teacher, is dismissed. Galinda changes her name to Glinda. Elphaba and Fiyero rescue a Lion cub brought in by his replacement, and a Love Triangle is formed. Then Elphaba is invited to the Emerald City, and her life changes forever. Events push the two friends along their paths towards becoming the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West.

After spending several years in Development Hell (mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic) a two-part film adaptation is finally set to be released, which promises to be an Adaptation Expansion with several elements from the book added. It is set to be directed by Jon M. Chu, with Cynthia Erivo portraying Elphaba, Ariana Grande as Glinda, Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero, Michelle Yeoh as Mme. Morrible, and Jeff Goldblum as the Wizard. The films are slated for release on Thanksgiving 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Tropes used in Wicked (theatre) include:
  • Abusive Parents: Elphaba's adoptive father is emotionally abusive, due to favouring Nessarose over Elphaba.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Many people who didn't care for the book consider the musical this, as it takes the basics of the book and removes most of the Darker and Edgier stuff.
  • Affably Evil: The Wizard. He never once directly says a single harsh word to either Elphaba or Glinda. Some performances of "Wonderful" even have he and Elphaba share a dance before it all goes to hell.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations
  • Alpha Bitch: Young Galinda, prior to befriending Elphaba. Once they bond, she becomes more of a Spoiled Sweet.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The opening song of the musical, "No One Mourns the Wicked," where the citizens of Oz rejoice that the Wicked Witch of the West is finally dead. Of course the entire story that follows it is about how this is an entirely inappropriate response.
  • And I Must Scream: Dillamond's fear regarding the Animals in Oz, and his ultimate fate.
  • Angry Mob Song: "March of the Witch Hunters"
  • Anti-Love Song: "What Is This Feeling" is a cheery tune sung by the two protagonists in which they profess their "unadulterated loathing" for each other.
  • Arc Words:
    • Replete with them. "I'm/We're/You're (un)limited" stands out. "You deserve each other" is also used quite frequently. Also, "a celebration throughout Oz / That's all to do with (me/you)".
    • The words "wicked" and "good" themselves.
  • Beautiful All Along: Elphaba, once she lets her hair down and takes off her glasses.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Madame Morrible, at least until the second act, where she just becomes a bitch.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Elphaba and Fiyero survive and can live out their days happily, provided they never return to Oz or let the despairing Glinda know her best friends are actually alive.
  • Black and White Morality: The Wizard points out that this moral system is the one most people prefer to believe when given the opportunity.

There are precious few at ease
With moral ambiguities
So we act as though they don't exist

  • Book Ends: The celebration of the Death of the Wicked Witch of the West opens and closes the show, from new angles and with slightly different moods each time.
  • Brainless Beauty: Both Glinda and Fiyero start out as this, and retain some aspects of it even after a good bit of Character Development.
  • BSOD Song/Sanity Slippage Song: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Once Elphaba loses Fiyero, things start to snap...
  • Burn the Witch: "March of the Witch Hunters."
  • The Caligula: What Nessarose becomes after she inherits the position of Governess of Munchkin Land.
  • The Caretaker: Elphaba dutifully plays this role for her crippled sister during much of the first act. In fact, her father only allowed her to come to Shiz University so she could assist Nessarose.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl : Galinda is a toned down version. She did decide to get married to Fiyero on the day she met him and refused to give up on their broken relationship with a 'surprise' engagement. Nessa is a much more alarming version ...
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Dr. Dillamond seems to believe that the Animals losing their powers of speech is the logical conclusion of the government keeping Animals from speaking out.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Wizard's guards try to get Fiyero to give up Elphaba's location by taking him out to a field to be tortured. However, Elphaba tries to save him by casting a spell from the Grimmerie that ultimately turns him into the scarecrow so it's unclear exactly how much/long Fiyero suffers from this attempt.
  • Counterpoint Duet: The latter half of "What Is This Feeling," though there's more than two voices involved. Also, the final chorus of "For Good", although it's the same melody, just sung at different times.
  • Crap Saccharine World: Oz, especially the Emerald City. The whimsical fantasy sets fail to distract from the fact that all talking animals and other segments of the population are being oppressed by a manipulative government. Compare "Something Bad" to "One Short Day".
  • Cut Song:
    • "MakingGood" was replaced in the final cut by "The Wizard and I" - a recording of it is included on the 5 year anniversary album. The original song in place of "Dancing Through Life" was called "Which Way's The Party" (lyrics also at the same link); that one has not been released in any official form.
    • The song "Wicked Witch of the East" is in the musical, but not in any of the sound tracks. This is because the lyrics are interspersed with a lot of dialog. Still, you can find videos of the song on youtube.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Elphaba.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • No One Mourns the Wicked and the finale.
    • "I'm Not That Girl" and "A Sentimental Man" with their respective reprises would also qualify.
    • A variant: The "I Hope You're Happy" passage at the beginning of "Defying Gravity" starts darkly, as Elphaba and Glinda are sniping at each other. When they sing it again toward the end of "Defying Gravity", it becomes a Sad Reprise, as the two friends genuinely wish each other happiness, no matter the roads they take in life.
    • In "Dancing Through Life" and "The Wicked Witch of the East", where Boq sings to Nessa. The first one is him trying to confess that he's only asked her out because he wants to impress Glinda. The reprise is when he tells her that he's leaving here, which makes her so mad she tries to remove his heart.

Listen, Nessa - Uh, Nessa
I've got something to confess
A reason why, well,
Why I asked you here tonight
Now, I know it isn't fair...

And then in "The Wicked Witch of the East":

Nessa - Uh Nessa
Surely now I'll matter less to you
And you won't mind my leaving here tonight
The ball that's being staged
Announcing Glinda is engaged...

Oh hallowed halls and vine-draped walls/the proudliest sight there is...

    • Also, during "What is This Feeling"

Poor Galinda, forced to reside
With someone so disgusticified

  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Something has changed within me, something is not the same."
  • Disney Death: Both Elphaba and Fiyero. But only in the musical. In the book, they both die for real.
  • Distant Duet: Elphaba and Glinda's final reprise of "For Good" at the end.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • "I'd be so happy I could melt" from "The Wizard and I."
    • Even more poignant, from the same song: "Someday there'll be a celebration throughout Oz that's all to do...with me!" There is, but it's celebrating her death.
    • "When people see me, they will scream ..."
    • There's also "Life is painless, for the brainless" a line sung by Fiyero- who goes on to become the Scarecrow.- in his introductory song "Dancing Through Life".
    • Subverted by Fiyero's incredulous, "Did you hear that? Water will melt her? People are so emptyheaded they'll believe anything." The audience thinks this is Dramatic Irony and that he's wrong, but at the end it turns out it really is just nonsense.
    • Fiyero does this a lot: "Maybe I'm brainless, maybe I'm wise..."
  • Dropped A House On Her: Nessarose.
  • Dumb Blonde:
    • At first played straight with Glinda, but then downplayed significantly when she turns out to have Hidden Depths.
    • Discussed by Elphaba in "What Is This Feeling." While Galinda gives a lengthy explanation of why she hates Elphaba in her own letter home, Elphaba sums up her loathing for Galinda in one word: Blonde.
  • Dying Alone: Said as much in the opening ("And goodness knows, the wicked die alone...") about Elphaba.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Also discussed. Elphaba offers to share her lunch with her teacher, Dr. Dillamond, ostracized for being a Goat. She eats her sandwich; he eats the paper bag it came in.
  • Emergency Transformation:
    • Turns Boq into the Tin Man.
    • And turns Fiyero into The Scarecrow.
  • Fake Weakness: Fiyero propagates the idea that Elphaba's vulnerable to water in order to fake her death. Elphaba is clever enough to play along.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: The guiding principle for the costumes of the ensemble in the musical production, which eventually won a Tony Award in this department.
  • Green Skinned Oz Beautiful All Along: Elphaba
  • Hair Flip: "And this is how you toss your hair" * Toss* * Toss*
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Glinda vs. Elphaba in Munchkinland
  • Harsh Life Revelation Aesop:
    • As Glinda sings to Elphaba after a Heel Realization, every great leader in history became that way due to popularity and looks, not their intellect or competence. The play ends with Glinda as the de facto leader of Oz, all the while knowing she hasn't earned it.
    • "Wonderful": The Wizard explains to Elphaba that he made Talking Animals the scapegoat for Oz and altered history because it's what the locals wanted: in politics, history is Written by the Winners and everyone wants someone to blame for their problems. When Elphaba tries to save the Talking Animals, including the Flying Monkeys, she's easily scapegoated in turn and realizes she can't do a thing about that.
    • "No Good Deed" shows Elphaba's Sanity Slippage on realizing that no matter how much good she intended, her actions ended in disaster: Doctor Dillamond still got fired and stripped of his speech despite Elphaba's resolution to ask the Wizard to save the Animals, the flying monkeys received a Painful Transformation when she was showing off magic as a test for the Wizard, Boq wants her dead for turning him into a tin man (to save his life), Nessarose died as part of a trap for Elphaba, and Fiyero as far as she knows is dead in a cornfield after the Oz soldiers tortured him. She realizes that you can have the best intentions but "no good deed goes unpunished".
  • Heel Realization: Galinda gives Elphaba the trademark black hat and invites her to the Ozdust Ballroom with the gang because she thought she couldn't "think of anyone I hate that much" to foist it on them (to which some girls respond "Yes, you do!") But when Elphaba arrives and gets ridiculed as expected, Galinda realizes how awful she's been and stops the laughing by going up and dancing with her. They evolve into friends after that.
  • Heroic BSOD: "All right, enough! So be it!...so be it then." Elphaba loses it after Fiyero dies. In the musical, we have the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished song; in the book, she turns mute and enters a nunnery for some years.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: All Elphaba wanted to do was help save the animals. But by the end of the musical, she's considered a Complete Monster by most Ozians and has come to be known by them as the "Wicked Witch of the West" depicted in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Even green skin paint can't make Idina Menzel look bad. Or most of the other Elphabas. Of course, that's actually the point - people within the story ignore her beauty and focus on the green.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song:
  • "I Am" Song: "Popular" and later "I'm Not that Girl" for G(a)linda, "Dancing Through Life" for Fiyero (before his Character Development), and "I'm Not That Girl" for Elphaba before Fiyero gets his Character Development and is Promoted to Love Interest.
  • If I Can't Have You: Nessarose decides that if Boq won't give her his heart, he might as well not have a heart to give, and (improperly) reads a spell from the Grimmerie to do just that.
  • In Name Only: The extent of the changes to the musical are such that it is this to the book.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "I hope you prove me wrong! I doubt you will!"
    • Also, "Everyone deserves a chance to fly!"
    • "You deserve each other!" used maaany times:
      • Used by Galinda in Dancing Through Life as she gives Elphaba her iconic hat, but also when she finds out Elphie's in love with Fiyero, and vice versa.
      • Also used by Nessa, in a song cut from the Cast Recording. "Alone and loveless here, with just the girl in the mirror. Just her and me, the Wicked Witch of the East...and we deserve each other."
      • Nessa also uses this in Dancing through Life when she tells her about her feelings for Boq: Elphaba see?/We deserve each other.
  • "I Want" Song: "The Wizard and I"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fiyero tries to remain aloof and entirely self centered and succeeds for a little while, but ultimately when the chips are down he fails.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Elphaba's personal Villain Song, literally called No Good Deed plays this very straight before it's revealed to be a subversion later.

Let all Oz be agreed
I'm wicked through and through
Since I can not succeed
Fiyero, saving you
I promise no good deed
Will I attempt to do again
Ever again
No good deed
Will I do again!

And helping you with your ascent al-
—lows me to feel so parental
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The beginning of Act II. The people are singing about the terror spread by the Wicked Witch... and then Glinda distracts them with news of her (very public) engagement. It's a stellar propaganda job.
    • The entire post-cyclone scene constantly bounds between hilarious and heartbreaking.
  • The Musical Musical: When Glinda and Elphaba visit the Emerald City in "One Short Day", they go to watch (and somewhat participate in) Wizomania.
  • Mythology Gag:

Nessa: What's in the punch?
Boq: Lemons and melons and pears--
Nessa: Oh my!

    • Another notable: Elphaba pays Nessa a visit.

Nessa: What are you doing here?
Elphaba: Well ... there's no place like home.

    • Stephen Schwartz has stated that the whole joy of the show is these nods that allow us to see how the Oz we know and love came to be. Hence in Act 1, Elphaba gradually acquires her famous witch's outfit; and in Act 2, we learn the origin of the cyclone, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.
    • The first seven notes of the repeated "Unlimited" musical motif are the same (though their rhythm is very different) as those of "Over the Rainbow".
    • The performers at the Wizomania show are identical to the Hammerheads in Baum's original book, though here they appear to be caricatures of the Wizard himself.
    • Another nod to the original Baum novels: during "One Short Day", at one point, a street peddler gives Elphaba and Glinda glasses with green tinted lenses, which they wear briefly during the remainder of the number. In Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard made everyone in the Emerald City(which wasn't actually all that green) wear green-tinted glasses so that everything would appear to be green.
    • In Act 2, when the Wizard agrees to free the winged monkeys from his servitude, Elphaba gleefully shouts, "Fly, monkeys, fly!"
    • The absolutely idiotic idea that a person would melt if splashed with water. They use the joke a few times. Good thing, too.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: This is an ongoing feature of Elphaba's life story. So much so that the Villain Song accompanying her Heroic BSOD is literally called "No Good Deed."
  • No Sense of Direction: By her own admission, Glinda.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The Wicked Witch of the West was pretty damn misunderstood.
  • Pair the Spares: Galinda attempts to do this, with disastrous results.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Madam Morrible is fond of these.
  • Politically-Motivated Teacher: Professor Dillamond is extremely passionate about his beliefs about the prejudice against talking animals in the school system and his fears about what is happening to them, fears which turn out to be correct.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Fiyero for Glinda, Boq for Nessarose. Jarring considering in the books none of these characters seemed to even speak to each other that often if at all.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Some fans are of the opinion that a direct translation of the book to the stage wouldn't have done nearly as well as the Lighter and Softer version.
  • Propaganda Machine: First used by the Wizard and his Mooks against the animals of Oz to convince the human citizens that the animals were causing trouble and were better kept caged up, where they would lose the ability to speak. Later used by both the Wizard and Madame Morrible in a smear campaign against Elphaba.
  • Prophecy Twist:
    • In-story, anyway. Elphaba sees that everyone in Oz will have a celebration "that's all to do...with me!" Of course, everyone celebrates that the Wicked Witch is gone.
    • From the same song, "I'll be so happy, I could melt!" and "When people see me, they will scream [for the Wizard and I]".
    • Fiyero's "Maybe I'm brainless" in As Long As You're Mine as well.
    • "Life's more painless/For the brainless."
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Nessarose, for Boq. Resulting in an If I Can't Have You that ends...well...strangely.
  • Recursive Adaptation: If the rumored film adaptation of the Wicked musical develops, it will be a movie based on a musical based on a novel based on a movie[1] based on a play[2] based on a novel. At a minimum.
  • Rich Bitch: Nessarose. Galinda, prior to Character Development.
  • The Scapegoat: The Animals in Oz. Dr. Dillamond (who is literally a goat) even points this out to Elphaba.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Subverted with Fiyero, who claims to be shallow, but, as Elphaba points out, is a lot deeper than he pretends.
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen: Dorothy, who is only present offstage twice and in silhouette once. Also the Cowardly Lion (as an adult), the only part of whom we see is his tail. According to the companion book The Grimerrie, Dorothy and the Lion were originally both in the opening, but were written out when the writers decided that having the two most memorable characters would conflict with the idea of the show.
  • Shout-Out: The stage is framed by a massive clockwork set, topped by a red-eyed animatronic dragon head that occasionally comes to life and writhes back and forth during important/dramatic moments. The popular theory is that this represents the Time Dragon Clock from the book.
  • Single Palette Town: The Emerald City, carried over from The Wizard of Oz. "It's all grand / And it's all green!" Stealth subversion? In the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book, it's revealed that the Emerald City is actually built of all white stone and people wear green shades so it all looks green. Guess what the Emerald City residents are wearing on stage.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Not nearly as cynical as the book.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Slight variation in that the soundtrack is dissonant with the lyrics and subject matter. What is This Feeling? is a happy, bouncy, upbeat song all about how much Galinda and Elphaba hate each other. "Loathing! Unadulterated loathing! For your face; your voice; your clothing! Let's just say I loathe it all."
  • Spoiled Sweet: What Glinda turns out to be.
  • Start of Darkness: For the Wicked Witch of the West
  • Steampunk: The set design, with its rusty gears and cast-iron trusses.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: Nessarose, Dr. Dillamond (left alive but mutated), and Fiyero or so we think.
  • Take That: Some of the lyrics in Popular are: "When I see depressing creatures with unprepossessing features/I remind them on their own behalf/to think of celebrated heads of state or specially great communicators/Did they have brains or knowledge? Don't make me laugh!" Ronald Reagan was known as The Great Communicator.
  • The Movie: In development.
  • Title Drop: Far, far too often.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Elphaba and Glinda
  • Torches and Pitchforks: During "March of the Witch Hunters", of course.
  • Transformation Trauma:
    • Boq (in the musical) becoming the Tin Man. The way it's played once he realizes what he's been turned into is not too far from how Elizabeth reacts to awakening as a monster in the 1994 version of Frankenstein, minus the suicide.
    • Chistery and the other monkeys growing wings looked pretty painful as well.
  • The Unfavorite: The only reason Elphaba was brought to Shiz in the musical was so that she can care for Nessarose.
  • Villain Song: "Wonderful" for The Wizard, and "No Good Deed" for Elphaba. Also, not on the soundtrack "Wicked Witch of the East" for Nessarose. As detailed on the trope page, none of them are straight examples.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Wizard is adored by the citizens of Oz despite his role in the oppression of the perfectly innocent Animals and the lies he spread about himself and Elphaba.
  • We Can Rule Together: The point of "Wonderful". Bonus points for quoting the "I Want" Song.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Unlike his Complete Monster book counterpart, the Wizard means well here, but is something of a bumbling oaf (albeit very accustomed to show business), easily manipulated by Madame Morrible.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: the whole musical is a flashback, from Glinda's POV, to her and Elphaba's relationship.
  • Wicked Witch: While Elphaba has all the trappings of it, the best literal example of the trope is Madame Morrible.
    • Nessarose is also shown to be deserving of her title "The Wicked Witch of the East."
  • Wizarding School: To some extent, Shiz University-although sorcery is only one of the many subjects Shiz University students can pursue.
  • Word of Gay: Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel have said that they believe if things had gone differently, Galinda and Elphaba would've eventually fallen in love. The same was said by some other cast members and Maguire.
  • Written by the Winners: The wizard all but quotes this trope directly in "Wonderful", instead he says "Where I'm from we believe all sorts of things that aren't true... we call it history."

A man's called a traitor
Or liberator
A rich man's a thief or philanthropist
Is one a crusader
Or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label
Is able to persist