The other biggest trailer of Super Bowl Sunday is that for Wicked, the first in a two-part adaptation of the Broadway musical, itself adapted from Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel. Does Wicked need to be two parts? I don’t think so! But then, I also don’t think it needs to be a musical, so I am on the wrong side of history here.
The trailer shows off Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, destined to become the Wicked Witch of the West; Ariana Grande as Glinda the future Good Witch; Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible, headmistress of a boarding school; Jonathan Bailey as handsome hunk Fiyero; Bowen Yang as fellow student Pfannee; and Jeff Goldblum as the Wizard. Not pictured: Ethan “Spongebob” Slater as Boq.
If you are (somehow) unfamiliar with Wicked, it’s a retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that fills in the Wicked Witch’s backstory, turning her into a sympathetic anti-hero. Depending on how young or old you are, you might remember the musical as the Hamilton of the 2000s. I found the book to be way overhyped, and only saw the musical during its original Broadway run because I had a backstage hookup. I will say it is one of the most impressive stage shows I’ve ever seen, and I do remember Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth blowing the roof off during “Defying Gravity” and “No Good Deed”. There is good, memorable music in Wicked.
The movie doesn’t look bad, if you go for musicals, that is. Cynthia Erivo, especially, looks great as Elphaba. That’s not a slag on Ariana, she just doesn’t factor as much into the trailer as Elphaba does. Although this does appear to be another trailer in the “stealth musical” trend, in which advertising campaigns hide the fact that a movie is also a musical from potential audiences. Wonka and The Color Purple did it, to a lesser extent The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Barbie did it, too (not musicals but featuring a lot of singing anyway).
There is no actual singing or dancing on camera in the Wicked trailer, there are just a few voice-over clips of lyrics and a soaring vocalization at the end to suggest the existence of songs. No one actually appears on camera singing or dancing. If you (somehow) didn’t know Wicked was a musical, you might think this is a regular old adaptation of the book, or even simply a twist on The Wizard of Oz, if you don’t know the book, which is now twenty-nine entire years old, exists, too.
I blame it on Cats. Everyone is still traumatized. They’re afraid people will compare movie musicals to Cats, and given that I keep doing exactly that in my reviews—FAIR. So they don’t want to tell people movies are also musicals, in case we become afraid of another Cats experience. It’s some kind of marketing anti-Cats inception. But I also don’t think you can spring musicals on people—I am always mad when it happens to me—so they should probably put some proper singing and dancing in the next trailer. They have until Thanksgiving to let people know Wicked is a musical.
Attached - Ariana and Cynthia arriving at the Super Bowl yesterday.