Two best friends: Elphaba and Glinda power pairings in 'Wicked'

As the trailer drops for the Wicked movie, starring Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande, we look back on some of the show's most notable Elphaba and Glinda pairings.

Julia Rank
Julia Rank

Look, it’s Glinda! And Elphaba! You can’t have one without the other. Stephen Schwartz’s musical phenomenon Wicked is an evergreen (sorry) spectacle, which follows Elphaba and Glinda as they go from enemies to friends, eventually becoming the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.

The musical has been a vehicle for dozens of talented women playing the lead roles, including Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the roles on Broadway. Now this much-loved tale is being adapted for the big screen, with Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande playing Elphaba and Glinda, respectively.

Here is a selection of the most memorable partnerships that have stood the test of time on Broadway and in the West End — far beyond One Short Day. Pink and green is our favourite colour combination! The dates given are for each pair’s first performance together — nearly all these actresses have played their roles opposite other partners, and many have undertaken multiple contracts.

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Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth (2003)

Two of modern Broadway’s most celebrated and idiosyncratic performers, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth are the OG pairing; the stars of the Original Broadway Cast Recording and the faces and voices that come to mind when many people think of the show. Both were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Wicked, with Menzel scooping the trophy.

Menzel broke through with her Broadway debut in 1996, in which she created the role of Maureen Johnson in Rent and was nominated for a Tony. She reprised the role of Maureen in the 2005 film version. Roles in Hair, Aida, and The Wild Party followed. Her sizeable fan base grew further when she created the role of Elphaba, with many audience members identifying with her character as a misunderstood outsider. In 2015, Menzel was nominated for another Tony for If/Then.

On screen, Menzel has appeared in Disenchanted, Glee, and* Uncut Gems*. Aside from Wicked, Menzel is perhaps best known as the voice of Elsa in Disney phenomenon Frozen and Frozen II. With "Defying Gravity" and "Let It Go" as her signature songs, it’s no wonder that Menzel’s voice is closely associated with anthems of empowerment.

Originally training as an opera singer, Chenoweth switched to musical theatre and, after several years of touring and Off-Broadway work, became a sensation with her Tony-winning performance as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The role of Glinda was written with her in mind. On Broadway, she has taken starring roles in Promises, Promises, The Apple Tree, and On the Twentieth Century. Her best-known screen appearances include The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, and Schmigadoon. This summer, Chenoweth and Stephen Schwartz will reunite on The Queen of Versailles in Boston. A Broadway transfer is surely on the cards?

Idina Menzel and Helen Dallimore (2006)

There was enormous excitement when it was announced that Wicked was transferring across the pond, heightened even further with the announcement that Menzel would lead the London opening for a strictly limited run. The atmosphere was akin to a rock concert. While Menzel did not receive an Olivier nomination, she did pick up a WhatsOnStage Award (then known as a Theatregoers’ Choice Award) for Best Actress in a Musical.

Australian actress Helen Dallimore was a left-field choice for the first London Glinda and, like Menzel, was not nominated for an Olivier. Nevertheless, she successfully created the archetype of the British Glinda as an upper-class, boarding-school girl. Following Wicked, Dallimore appeared in notorious Ernest Hemingway musical Too Close to the Sun and played Cinderella in Into the Woods at the Open Theatre, before continuing her career in her native Australia.

Kerry Ellis and Dianne Pilkington (2007)

Kerry Ellis was the first British Elphaba, and served as Menzel’s standby before taking over the role in her own right. Prior to Wicked, Ellis created the role of Meat in Queen musical We Will Rock You (Brian May saw her covering for Martine McCutcheon in My Fair Lady, the start of a long-term creative collaboration). She also also played Ellen in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Misérables.

Ellis's Elphaba was rapturously received and she played the role on Broadway in 2008 for the show’s fifth anniversary. In 2010, she took over the role of Nancy in Oliver! at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and has starred as Alice in Wonderland on tour and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes at the Barbican. Ellis is a prolific concert performer who has toured as a solo artist, and has produced many recordings, including the EP Wicked in Rock.

Ellis initially played opposite Dallimore before she and Dianne Pilkington became the first British principal Elphaba and Glinda pair. Pilkington’s previous credits included Beauty and the Beast, Cats, and The Far Pavilions. She created the role of Eglantine Price in the stage production of Bedknobs and Broomsticks and most recently switched sides (in a manner of speaking) to play the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium. Ellis and Pilkington were both nominated for Best Takeover Role in the 2008 WhatsOnStage Awards, which was won by Ellis.

Stephanie J Block and Annaleigh Ashford (2007)

Who was the first Elphaba? That’s kind of a trick question. It was, of course, Idina Menzel in the fully staged production on Broadway, but in the workshops, Stephanie J Block, then a relative unknown, played the role. Block served as understudy to the more experienced Menzel in the San Francisco try-out before leaving to create the role of Liza Minnelli in The Boy from Oz opposite Hugh Jackman. She returned to the show as principal Elphaba on tour, and from 2007-8, took the role on Broadway.

Block has had an exemplary Broadway career, with a real flair for diva roles. She created the role of Grace O’Malley in The Pirate Queen, tap danced as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, and shone as ‘Star’ in The Cher Show. She is a three-time Tony nominee. This summer, Block will be starring in Kiss Me, Kate at the Barbican alongside Line of Duty's Adrian Dunbar.

On Broadway, Block starred opposite Annaleigh Ashford, who had previously understudied the role. Ashford went on to originate the role of Lauren in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, and played Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme and Dot/Marie in Sondheim’s Assassins and Sunday in the Park with George, respectively. Continuing her association with Sondheim, Ashford was recently seen as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd on Broadway opposite Josh Groban — her Cockney accent was met with a mixed reception, but her comedy received rave reviews.

Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman (2010)

Rachel Tucker reached a wider audience when she appeared on the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, a 2008 talent show searching for an actress to play Nancy in Oliver!. After finishing in fourth place, Tucker played Meat in We Will Rock You before landing the role of Elphaba. She received a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Takeover Performance. Tucker departed the production in 2012 ahead of the birth of her son and, in 2015, played a 10-month stint on Broadway. Tucker returned to the West End production for a limited run to lead the show’s 10th anniversary cast in 2016. She is one of the longest-serving Elphabas in the show’s history.

Tucker created the role of Beverley Bass in the London production of Come From Away, for which she received an Olivier nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Most recently, Tucker received rave reviews for her guest-starring role as Norma Desmond in Jamie Lloyd’s lauded production of Sunset Boulevard.

Tucker’s first Glinda was the versatile Louise Dearman, who had previously played Adelaide and Sarah in Guys and Dolls and the title role in Evita in the West End. Dearman’s Wicked story has a unique twist — read on!

Louise Dearman and Gina Beck (2012)

A year after finishing her stint as Glinda, Dearman returned to Wicked — this time replacing Tucker as Elphaba. To date, she is the only actress to have played both roles. Dearman is an acclaimed recording and concert artist, frequently appearing with the John Wilson Orchestra, and she most recently starred as Ruth in Wonderful Town for Opera Holland Park.

Joining Dearman for her special return was Gina Beck, one of the West End’s most celebrated sopranos. After playing Cosette in Les Misérables and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, Glinda gave her the chance to flex her comedy muscles. In 2013, Beck became the first international actress to play Glinda on the US tour. A celebrated interpreter of the classics, Beck went on to play Magnolia in Show Boat, Nellie in South Pacific, and Maria in The Sound of Music, as well as Miss Honey in the more contemporary Matilda, a role she will reprise for the show’s international tour later this year.

Laura Pick and Sophie Evans (2021)

Laura Pick was promoted from standby to principal Elphaba in January 2020 and, not long after, the pandemic hit. She returned to lead the show when it reopened — it was never so good to see our favourite witches! Pick is currently receiving rave reviews for her performance in the UK tour, running until January 2025.

When the show reopened, Pick was joined by Sophie Evans as Glinda. The runner-up of the BBC casting show Over the Rainbow, Evans was cast as alternate Dorothy at the London Palladium. When she joined Wicked in 2017, she became the youngest principal Glinda at the age of 24, originally opposite Alice Fearn. Succeeded by Helen Woolf, she returned to Wicked following lockdown to cover Woolf’s maternity leave.

Alexia Khadime and Lucy St. Louis (2023)

History was made when Alexia Khadime and Lucy St. Louis became the first women of colour to play Elphaba and Glinda together. Khadime’s journey with the show has been an interesting one. London’s third Elphaba, she first played the role in 2008 to cover Kerry Ellis’s Broadway run. She returned for another run the following year.

In between, Khadime has played Eponine in Les Misérables, Miriam in The Prince of Egypt, and she created the role of Nabulungi in the West End production of The Book of Mormon, for which she won the 2014 WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Her return to the role occurred 13 years after her last performance. To date, she is the only actress of colour to play the role of Elphaba full-time.

St. Louis was the first Black actress to play Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, which earned her Best Female Performance in a Musical at the Black British Theatre Awards. She was recently nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Takeover for her performance as Glinda.

Khadime and St. Louis are currently leading the West End production.

Wicked trailer 1200 LT

Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande (2024)

What inspired casting! London-born, RADA-trained Cynthia Erivo is one of modern musical theatre’s biggest success stories. She played Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act on tour, Chenice in I Can’t Sing! at the London Palladium, and Celie in The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory and on Broadway, for which she won a Tony. Transitioning into screen work, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Harriet in 2019, about the life of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

World famous as a pop star, the role of Glinda will be a whole new challenge for Ariana Grande, blessed with a four-octave range that’s made her one of the biggest-selling musical artists of all time. The trailer features some snatches of Erivo singing (as gorgeous as expected), and we can’t wait to hear what Grande sounds like as Glinda. Roll on autumn!

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Photo credit: Alexia Khadime and Lucy St. Louis in Wicked. (Photo by Matt Crocket)

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