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Something Wicked happened in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
During Universal Pictures’ presentation at CinemaCon, the studio offered up a look at its highly anticipated two-part musical Wicked from director Jon M. Chu and starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo. It was received with applause from theater owners, who were treated to looks at flying monkeys and an immersive Emerald City.
“Wicked is such a proud part of our legacy,” said Universal film boss Donna Langley, who noted the musical has just become the fourth-longest-running in Broadway history. “They are creating an entire world I know will dazzle your screens.”
The footage from Wicked was a rough cut, as the films are still in production. It included behind-the-scenes looks at Erivo flying on a broom and some of the craftsmanship going into the project.
“I knew what this movie could be. What does it feel like to be in Oz? Be in the dirt? Feel it in your fingertips,” asked Chu in a sizzle reel, noting the project will do things that can’t be done on the Broadway stage.
Chu added that the team planted real flowers to cover Oz, rather than use CG, as he wanted Oz to feel like a real place.
He also said that there was an extensive casting search before finding the leads and that the women have palpable chemistry. The footage included plenty of the pair together, with Erivo’s Elphaba in her trademark green skin.
Earlier during a general Universal sizzle reel, Chu appeared on a set backed by monitors showing the words Wicked in green lettering. As Chu spoke, footage played that featured the backs of Grande’s Glinda and Erivo’s Elphaba as they walked, hand-in-hand, down a long corridor. Chu talked about the power of cinema and how it can change you “for good,” borrowing the title of the beloved track “For Good” from the smash Broadway musical.
There have been a lot of Wicked headlines as of late. The first official look at Erivo’s Elphaba and Grande’s Glinda dropped on social media on April 16, as seen below. The dark images inspired some critical responses online, and Chu responded to multiple Twitter users who slammed the images as too dark. “Don’t worry, color is in my DNA. This is just the first tease. Plenty of time to show more…stay tuned,” countered the filmmaker who came through on that pledge in Vegas for theater owners and press.
Days after those pics were posted, paparazzi images surfaced from the U.K. set, confirming the Technicolor backdrop and showing Grande, singing in all her Glinda glory while wearing a bright pink gown and sparkling tiara. Circling back to a month ago, on March 14, Universal announced that it would be moving up the release of the first installment to Nov. 27, 2024 — the eve of Thanksgiving — instead of Dec. 25, 2024. The second and final installment is due the following holiday season, in 2025.
Grande and Erivo star opposite Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible, Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey as love interest Fiyero, Jeff Goldblum as the Wizard, Keala Settle as Miss Coddle, Ethan Slater as Boq, Marissa Bode as Nessarose, Bowen Yang as Pfannee, Bronwyn James as ShenShen and Adam James as Glinda’s father.
Universal’s film adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical (both are based on the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire) has been in the works for years, with veteran film and stage producer Marc Platt producing alongside David Stone.
The two shepherded the original Broadway production, which debuted on the Great White Way 20 years ago, on Oct. 8, 2003. It went on to become a certified cultural phenomenon that launched national and international productions and has become the No. 2 highest-grossing Broadway show of all time, after The Lion King.
CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, is being held inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from April 24-27.
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