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The writers of ‘Wicked’ on how the musical has reached its 20-year anniversary

Original novelist, Gregory Maguire, and the musical’s book writer, Winnie Holzman, discuss “Wicked”’s enduring lessons and its next translation to the big screen.

(L-R) McKenzie Kurtz as Glinda and Alyssa Fox as Elphaba in “Wicked,” 2023 (Credit: Joan Marcus)

When Gregory Maguire’s brother saw the opening night of “Wicked” on Oct. 30, 2003, he told him one thing: “Retire.” So sure was he that the musical based on Maguire’s novel would be a hit. “But then,” Maguire recalled, “He said, ‘I only fear one thing: that it’s too topical and that it will age out of the political message you put in it.’” Maguire continued, “Guess what? Here we are.” 

Indeed. Twenty years to the day, on Oct. 30, 2023, “Wicked” celebrated its big Broadway anniversary at the Gershwin Theatre. The musical — and its message — have endured. 

In fact, Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book to the musical, told Broadway News that “Wicked” has lasted because of the timeless lessons embedded within it. “I think that’s why we’re running for 20 years,” Holzman said on the 20th anniversary green carpet. “There’s a lot of hope and strength that people have gotten from the show.”

On its face, “Wicked” is the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West, a character invented by L. Frank Baum in his novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” But depending on your personal lens, “Wicked” is a musical about standing up for what’s right, even when the public turns against you; it’s a musical about questioning authority, about mob mentality, about being an outsider, about how history is remembered. It’s a musical about making choices, about ambition and sacrifice, about strength and love. 

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