1.1 The modern musical
developed in the early 20th
1.1.1 Roots go back much further
to the parallel traditions of
operetta and variety shows.
1.2 Many of the earliest musicals,
such as The Wizard of Oz (1902),
included songs from a variety of
sources that might change from
one production to another.
1.2.1 However, Showboat (1927)
introduced the idea of the
book musical, in which songs,
vocal ensembles and dances
are fully integrated into a plot
with serious dramatic goals.
2 Wicked is one of the most successful musicals of modern times. The
music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz (born 1948), whose many
credits include the musical Godspell (1971) and the lyrics for Disney’s
animated musical film Pocahontas (1995).
3.1 Wicked the musical is based
on the 1995 fantasy novel
Wicked: The Life and Times
of the Wicked Witch of the
West by American author
3.1.1 Aimed at adults,
rather than children,
the novel creates a
back-story for many of
the characters in L.
Frank Baum’s classic
children’s novel The
Wonderful Wizard of
Oz and the 1939
musical film The
Wizard of Oz
184.108.40.206 It explores the nature of good and evil, and offers a new
perspective on the characters and events in the original story (a
process known as literary revisionism).
220.127.116.11.1 (In particular, the character Elphaba, known to generations as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard Of Oz,
is portrayed in the musical Wicked as a sympathetic character who is treated badly for being true to her beliefs.)
3.2 Wicked Synopsis
3.2.1 The musical begins with the death of
Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
18.104.22.168 Through flashback, we learn from Glinda (the Good Witch of the North) that the two girls were at university
together, where the beautiful, popular and spoilt Glinda initially loathed the greenskinned Elphaba, who had been
misunderstood and shunned by society.
22.214.171.124.1 Having shown a talent for sorcery, the two girls were sent to
help the Wizard of Oz, who Elphaba discovers to be a corrupt
dictator, busy suppressing the minority group of sentient
animals in Oz by caging them and segregating them to
prevent them learning how to speak. Elphaba realises that
the wizard is a charlatan who possesses no magic powers,
and she vows to fight his injustices.
126.96.36.199.1.1 Fearful of Elphaba’s own magic powers, the wizard
denounces her as wicked and uses propaganda to turn the
people of Oz against her. A hunt begins and Elphaba is
forced into hiding. She seeks asylum in Munchkinland but
her request is refused by its governor (her cruel and
embittered sister, who has become known as the Wicked
Witch of the East).
188.8.131.52.1.1.1 During the show we discover that the Scarecrow and Tin Man were once boyfriends
of the witches, transformed by their spells, a lion cub freed from experiments by
Elphaba grows up to be the Cowardly Lion and the Wizard of Oz turns out to be
Elphaba’s father. Glinda has come to respect Elphaba’s strength in standing up for
what is right, and laments the loss after Dorothy appears to have killed her – but
just before the end of the musical, we learn that Elphaba survived and is still alive
4 The individual musical items in a musical (e.g.
songs, choruses and dances) are known as
numbers. ‘Defying Gravity’ is No. 17 in Wicked and
forms the finale to Act One – a cliff-hanger
moment designed to leave the audience wanting
to know more.
5 Here, Elphaba, who had long dreamed of working with the
Wizard of Oz, has discovered that he is behind the mistreatment
of animals. He has been using her to provide the magic powers
he himself lacks. She changes her opinion of the wizard, and
resolves to take a stand against him. He threatens to kill the
girls rather than be unmasked. They in turn barricade
themselves into the highest tower in the wizard’s castle.
5.1 ELphaba levitates a broomstick to escape
and, as the castle guard hammers on the
door, she tries in vain to convince Glinda to
join her. The guards burst in and Glinda
wishes her well as Elphaba rises into the sky
on her broomstick, promising to fight the
wizard with all her power. Meanwhile the
citizens of Oz rush in to end the act with
cries of ‘Get her! We’ve got to bring her
6.1 Band Of 23 Musicians
6.1.1 Four strings (two
violins, viola, cello)
6.1.2 Double bass (doubling fretted and
fretless bass guitars)
6.1.3 Four reeds (i.e. woodwind players)
6.1.4 Six brass (two each of trumpets, trombones
6.1.5 Two guitars and harp
6.1.8 Three keyboards
6.2 The limited room in orchestra pits means that the
reed players have to double on a number of
instruments – particularly the fourth player who has
to switch between flute, clarinet, bass clarinet,
bassoon and baritone saxophone.
6.2.1 Similarly, there is seldom room for a full string section, so here the solo
strings are bolstered by string sounds from the keyboard players.
However, a full body of strings would normally be used for recordings.
184.108.40.206 The excerpt in the anthology is in the form of a short score which shows the main band parts on just two staves.
A pianist can play from this to accompany rehearsals.
6.3.1 Electric guitar with overdrive (a
type of distortion) in bars 11, 40
6.3.2 Chordal writing for low brass
contrasting with melody on
solo synth (bars 20–23)
6.3.3 String tremolo (marked ) to
create excitement (bars
34–36 and 162–165)
6.3.4 Drum Fill (bar54)- a breif
drum improvisation to fill
between vocal phrases
6.3.5 Descending vocal
phrases for bass
clarinet (bars 89
6.3.6 Cymbal roll to
change of key
6.3.7 Tutti (full band)
for the climax at
6.3.8 Synth and glockenspiel
play a high-pitched
ostinato as Elphaba sings
of flying high (bars
6.4 The two principal singers,
Elphaba and Glinda, require
the vocal ranges shown left
for this number. A mezzo
soprano is a voice lower in
range than a soprano.
6.4.1 Soprano Range: A (below middle
C) to A (above stave)
6.4.2 Mezzo Soprano Range: G (below middle C)
to F# (on top line of stave)