21 "Wicked" Behind-The-Scenes Facts That'll Make You See This Broadway Show In A Whole New Way

1.First, the process for painting actors green for Elphaba in Wicked is so streamlined now, it only takes roughly 20–30 minutes. Chromacake in Landscape Green by MAC is what is used for the green base, and it's applied using a paintbrush and a mixture of the Chromacake and water.

An actor having the makeup applied

2.Throughout the show, there are constantly touch-ups to Elphaba's makeup when the actor isn't onstage. Not only is it to touch up the green, but it also shows the evolution of Elphaba's character. In Act 2, her makeup gets darker and "more dramatic" with winged eyeliner, more contour, and a darker lipstick.

Actor having makeup applied and then onstage

3.Lindsay Mendez, who starred as Elphaba on Broadway in 2013 for the 10th anniversary, said that after being painted green for nine months, eight times a week, she would find green makeup "in the pores of [her] skin" long after she finished her run in the show.

Close-up of Lindsay onstage in the role

She explained that she would have "green moles" because the makeup would go into her skin. "Long after I was done with Wicked, I would still have, like, green makeup in my pores that I would have to try and get out. It was pretty gnarly."

Walter Mcbride / Corbis / Getty Images

4.The now-iconic riff at the end of "Defying Gravity" was something Idina Menzel brought to the song after she was cast as Elphaba. Kristin Chenoweth, who played Glinda opposite Idina, recalled that the notes weren't explicitly written until Idina joined the production.

Idina performing as Elphaba

Idina also recalled that "So if You Care to Find Me" was originally written much lower, but she said, "Can I please take that out of the basement? She's going up here."

Frank Micelotta / Getty Images

5.For Elphaba's big flying moment in "Defying Gravity," the actor playing Elphaba steps onto a small platform and presses their back against the mechanical device, and a belt locks them into place. A computer offstage signifies when they are safely locked in; if they aren't, it won't move. Also on the lift is fabric with the same color as Elphaba's outfit so it hides what she's standing on.

Actor demonstrating to reporter how the platform works while holding a broom

6.In "Popular," when Glinda runs around going, "La la...," it was something Kristin came up with, and now every Glinda who has taken over the role does it too. Kristin said she did that little dance because she imagined Glinda "in her room growing up. She probably loved ballet. She was a girly girl."

Kristin as Glinda singing "There's nothing that can stop you from becoming popu-ler, -lar" and "La-la-la-la"

7.During several early readings, there was originally a song called "Making Good," which was going to be the first song Elphaba sang before it was replaced by "The Wizard and I."

Idina as Elphaba onstage singing

8.Another song that was changed after initial readings was "Which Way's the Party?," which was replaced with "Dancing Through Life." Stephen explained that "Which Way's the Party?" ultimately didn't introduce the character of Fiyero well enough.

Fiyero and Glinda onstage

9.The first seven notes of the classic Wizard of Oz song "Over the Rainbow" are used in what Stephen calls the "Unlimited Theme," which can be heard in "The Wizard and I," "For Good," "Defying Gravity," and more.

Judy Garland as Dorothy singing about the land she heard of once in a lullaby

The reason only the first seven notes are used as a little Easter egg is reportedly to avoid those songs infringing on any copyright issues with Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's original song.


10.Gregory Maguire, who wrote Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which the musical is based on, named the Wicked Witch of the West "Elphaba" after the letters "L," "F," and "B," aka the initials of L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Illustrated cover of Baum's book

"Once I got it, I thought, Every time her name is spoken or sung, I will be tipping my hat to the original person who created her: Lyman Frank Baum," Gregory explained.

Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

11.When designing Glinda's signature bubble gown for Wicked, Tony Award–winning costume designer Susan Hilferty was inspired by a 1950s Dior gown, as well as Princess Diana's wedding dress. However, she had to jump through some legal hoops because it looked too close to what Glinda wore in the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Glinda in the stage show referring to "fellow Ozians"

12.Also, Glinda's bubble dress weighs about 14 pounds and has gone through four iterations since Kristin wore it in 2003. The current dress includes 68,200 blue and white sequins that were handsewn onto the gown.

Glinda in the sequined gown onstage

13.As for Elphaba's final dress, Susan took inspiration from the Earth and gems in order to visually give "the sense of [Elphaba] being grounded," versus Glinda, who is "light, and bubbles, and air." Also, while the dress may appear black, it's actually filled with darker colors and was built using "over 40 yards of fabric."

Lindsay Mendez onstage as Elphaba

The over 40 yards of fabric were stitched together in order to "have a continuous sense of being from the Earth. It's created to look like the lines you would see in a chunk of earth," according to Susan.

Rob Kim / Getty Images

14.One of the biggest quick changes in the show is when the ensemble of roughly 17 actors have to change from the mob to students at Shiz University. They reportedly only have about a minute and a half to change into their Shiz uniforms, which includes changing costumes, wigs, and shoes.

The ensemble onstage

15.One of the toughest costume moments to nail down in Wicked was when Chistery sprouts wings and becomes a flying monkey. In order to give the illusion that he was growing wings right in front of the audience's eyes, the wings are attached to the harness underneath the costume, and then the actor pulls a string to deploy the wings on cue.

The actor as Chistery onstage

16.While writing "For Good," Stephen knew it was going to be a song about friends having to say goodbye, so in order to make it as authentic (and emotional) as possible, he actually asked his daughter for help with inspiration for the lyrics.

Glinda and Elphaba singing the song, including the lyrics "So much of me is made of what I learned from you; you'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart" and "And now whatever way our stories end I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend"

17.Willemijn Verkaik currently holds the record for the longest-running Elphaba. She's played over 2,000 performances in Germany, the Netherlands, Broadway, and the West End. As a result, Willemijn has also performed the show in three different languages: Dutch, German, and English.

Willemijn smiling as Elphaba

18.The fog that is seen onstage in Wicked has become a memorable aspect of the show, especially during the beginning, "Defying Gravity," and "As Long as You're Mine." In 2018, the Broadway production had reportedly used 942,000 pounds of dry ice over the 15 years the show had been running at the time.

Actors singing "As Long as You're Mine" onstage

By comparison, in 2018 the Broadway production used only 221 gallons of bubble fluid.

Wicked / Broadwaycom / Via

19.Eugene Lee, who won a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design for Wicked in 2004, was the scenic designer on Saturday Night Live from its premiere in 1975 until his death in 2023.

Scale model of the Wicked set

20.The dragon, which looms over the Wicked stage, is actually a marionette that is operated by crew members. Each rope the crew members pull operates a different aspect of the dragon, whether it's the wings, the head, or another part.

The dragon onstage showing the ropes

21.And finally, the design of the massive Oz head that is seen in Wicked was inspired by how the Tin Man was put together in The Wizard of Oz. By looking at the Tin Man's costume in the movie, the set designers figured out the concept for how the Oz head would look if it were "built in Oz."

The Oz head onstage and a stagehand working it behind the scenes