Speaking with online fan newsletter The Schwartz Scene, six-time Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz revealed additional details about the upcoming two-part film adaptation of his 2003 Broadway musical Wicked, now in its 19th year at the Gershwin Theatre.
The Pippin and Godspell writer confirmed that new songs are being written for the Wicked films, sharing a photo of himself, music director Stephen Oremus, and actors Troy Iwata, Marissa Rosen, and Wendi Bergamini from a recent demo recording session. Fans will have to wait to find out if the new material makes it to the finished films.
Schwartz also spoke to the recent reveal that Wicked's screen adaptation would take the unusual step of splitting itself in two, to be released in 2024 and 2025, respectively. According to Schwartz, the musical's iconic act one closer "Defying Gravity" was a major factor in that decision. "That song is written specifically to bring a curtain down, and whatever scene to follow it without a break just seemed hugely anti-climactic," he shares with the fan publication. Surprisingly, he also appears to leave room for that decision to change, writing, "[W]hen it’s all done, if it doesn’t work that way, we’ll have to figure something out."
Wicked won't be the first stage-to-screen adaptation to grapple with segueing out of a climactic, show-stopping first act finale—screen versions of Gypsy, Funny Girl, and Les Misérables, among others, have grappled with similar numbers. Many classic movie musicals avoided the issue entirely and retained the intermissions of their stage counterparts, including Hello, Dolly!, whose own "Before the Parade Passes By" was certainly also designed to end the act with a bang. Others address the issue by adjusting the book's structure, as when "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was transformed from a first act finale to a second act opener in The Sound of Music.
Expanding Wicked into a two-film series will necessitate new material, making the report of Schwartz's new songs somewhat expected, but the composer-lyricist reassures fans that all of the planned changes will be "additive," a term he credits to producer Marc Platt. "[The changes] need to add something to the story or the characters. They can’t just be changes to do something different."
Directed by Jon M. Chu, Wicked's screen adaptation is set to star Tony winner Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba and pop star and Broadway alum Ariana Grande as Glinda. Wicked book writer Winnie Holzman is penning the screenplay, and Tony winner Paul Tazewell will design the costumes. Universal Pictures is currently scheduled to release the first film December 25, 2024, with the second set to follow December 25, 2025.