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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”