It's one of the most eagerly anticipated movie musicals of recent times and after years of speculation Universal Pictures have finally announced a release date for the big screen adaptation of the internationally successful musical Wicked.
The news was released by the Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by Universal pictures on social media via Twitter, saying: "The musical phenomenon WICKED comes to the big screen. In theaters 12.20.19."
So that's only three years to wait.
Since opening on Broadway at the George Gershwin Theatre on 30 October 2003, Wicked has become one of the most successful musicals of modern times. The original Broadway production continues to play to packed houses and has twice toured the United States. In the UK, the musical opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in September 2006, and will this year celebrate its 10th anniversary, when it welcomes long-time Elphaba Rachel Tucker back to the cast to mark the occasion.
With Universal being one of the producers of the stage musical, it was inevitable that a big-screen adaptation would eventually be released. Speaking to producer Marc Platt at a press junket for the film adaptation of Into the Woods, I asked about the progress of the film and if any official time scale was known. "The process and development of the movie has begun in earnest" he replied, "it will happen when the material is at a place where we feel, as the creators, that the adaptation of it will be as satisfying as a film as it is in a theatre...it IS in the process, we have just set the bar really high. We want the film to be unique and satisfying as the stage experience which is still terribly successful..."
To direct the film, producers have chosen British director Stephen Daldry who is known for his work both on screen as well as stage. After beginning his career at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre he went on to work at venues such as the Manchester Library Theatre, Liverpool Playhouse, Stratford East and Oxford Stage. He was also Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre from 1989-92 along with the Royal Court Theatre from 1992–98.
His film credits include the popular British film Billy Elliot, which he went on to also direct for the stage adaptation that ran in London and on Broadway. His recent stage directing credits have included the West End and Broadway productions of 'Skylight' and 'The Audience', and his iconic version of 'An Inspector Calls' is preparing to return to London.
On paper Daldry is a perfect choice for this high-profile film release having a solid background in theatre, film and musical theatre. It was also announced that he would be joined by book writer Winnie Holzman and composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz who will work together on a new screenplay.
Movie musicals, it's fair to say, fell out of fashion following the 'golden age' of theatre where every successful Broadway show enjoyed a big screen adaptation. With Rob Marshall's Chicago hitting the cinema in 2000 where it went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture (the first musical to do so since Oliver! in 1968), film musicals threatened to come back into fashion. The box office collapse of Nine soon followed, with mixed reception for the screen adaptations of Dreamgirls and Sweeney Todd, proving that there is no guarantee for box office success despite a show being popular in one medium.
Cameron Mackintosh and Tom Hooper's screen adaptation of Les Miserables in 2013 was considered an artistic and commercial success, grossing $441.8 million worldwide. Like Wicked, the film opened whilst the original production was still running in London's West End, but rather than hurt ticket sales as some predicted, the increased awareness of the film and music only boosted the stage production, which was followed by a fresh Broadway revival. Disney stepped in to produce a film adaptation of Sondheim and Lapine's tricky 1989 musical Into the Woods which had a successful distribution around the world and brought new fans to the theatrical property which has enjoyed numerous revivals around the world.
Recent plans for film adaptations of Miss Saigon and Cats have furthered the interest in a new dawn of movie musicals, and with the addition of Wicked in 2019, there seems to be an exciting schedule of upcoming releases for fans of musical theatre.
The biggest question hanging over Wicked's head is the casting, especially that of the two witches Elphaba and Glinda. As two of the most well-known roles in the modern musical theatre repertoire, actors from all backgrounds will no doubt be hoping to snag the leading roles. With three years left still to go, I can only imagine that the hype and suspense will only continue to build.