Stephen Schwartz’s musical, Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Stephen Schwartz worked with Emmy Award-winning writer Winnie Holzman to develop an outline for a plot that was condensed enough to be suitable for a musical, as the original novel is rather epic and sprawling. While the musical takes Maguire’s central idea of a retelling of the 1939 musical movie The Wizard of Oz from the viewpoint of the “Wicked Witch of the West”, its plot differs in significant ways. Schwartz switched the focus of the musical to the friendship between Galinda and Elphaba, which is not the central plotline of the book. Additional changes included making Fiyero turn into the Scarecrow which features in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz; putting Nessarose in a wheelchair instead of portraying her as a woman without arms; Boq having a continued love interest in Galinda; Boq turning into the Baum’s Wizard of Oz character, the Tin Man, rather than into a character exclusively found in Maguire’s novel named Nick Chopper; the omission of Maguire’s description of Elphaba’s years in the Vinkus; and the omission of Doctor Dillamond’s murder,which features in the novel..
Schwartz developed the musical through a series of readings, which included actor/singer Kristin Chenoweth from the very beginning in the role of Galinda. Schwartz composed the role with Chenoweth in mind. Stephanie J. Block played Elphaba in the first few workshops, and also played the role in the 1st National Tour and later on Broadway. In late 2000, Idina Menzel was cast in the role of Elphaba and premiered the role on Broadway.
Wicked officially opened on Broadway on October 8, 2003 after a tryout in San Francisco. The original Broadway production was directed by Joe Mantello and featured set design by Eugene Lee. In addition to Chenoweth and Menzel, the original Broadway cast featured Joel Grey as the Wizard, Michelle Federer as Nessarose, and Norbert Leo Butz as Fiyero. This production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, and won for Best Actress - Idina Menzel, Best Costume Design, and Best Scenic Design. It won 6 Drama Desk Awards out of 11 nominations and 4 Outer Critics Circle Awards out of 10 nominations. The cast recording also won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Saycon Sengbloh became the first African-American woman to play the role of Elphaba in January 2005, when she was cast as a standby. Since then, five other black women have either played or covered the role: Lilli Cooper, Alexia Khadime, Brandi Chavonne Massey, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and Dan’yelle Williamson.
Wicked has toured the United States, played the West End, and been translated into languages including German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and Dutch.