Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No Good Musical Goes Unpunished: Casting Wicked

It was just a matter of time, wasn' t it? Although the rights had been bought years ago for Wicked, the tremendously successful fluffy musical adaptation of the much darker politically inspired book written by Gregory Maguire, it seems, according the Variety, that steps are finally being made to bring the story of BEFORE Dorothy came to Oz to the big screen.

Honestly, I'm less intrigued by this than I would be if someone actually adapted the actual book. Because the book itself? Complicated. Brilliant. Dark as hell. It tells the tale of a land in the midst of political upheavel and corruption, so entrenched in it's own dirty deeds that an outcast turns her back on the only true friendship she's ever known in order to do what little she can to try and change it.

The musical? ... Let's call it a fluffy version of those events. No bloodshed. No murder. Just a lot of singing, a lot of magic, and a twist ending that makes the audience think about The Wizard of Oz in a whole new manner.

Still, it's a powerful musical, and a damned successful one. Part of the sucess was thanks to the originators of the two lead characters. Idina Menzel as prickly do-gooder Elphaba (aka The Wicked Witch) and Kristen Chenowith as shallow, charming Glinda (aka The Good Witch of the North) - both scored Tony nominations and legions of fans. Of course, the problem is, that as wonderful as the actors are, they're just too old. They are. These are supposed to be college age girls who are driven by their idealistic zeal. Casting thirty-somethings Idina and Kristen would be like watching poor Gabrielle Carteris pretend to be a high school kid when she was in her late twenties in 90210. They tried casting the originals for RENT the Movie and all that really did (despite the fact that I LOVED Rent) was make you want to smack the whiny 30-somethings who didn't want to pay their stupid rent and tell them to get a job already.

The success of a Wicked movie depends on the leads, for sure. Elphaba, the girl born green, driven to try and help the less fortunate and forced into a life as an outcast and 'Wicked' because of it, speaks to the inner outcast in everyone. She is angry, she is timid, she is hopeful and earnest and bitter. Glinda is the incarnation of every mean girl that's existed, who lives on stereotypes and finds herself challenging her own beliefs and reinventing herself thanks to her unexpected roommate and best friend.

So much hinges on finding the RIGHT Elphaba. The right Glinda. Even the right Fiyero, because how do you find a shallow pretty boy who has enough depth hidden deep down to appeal to both the outcast and the popular girl?

It's worth taking a look at. We need young girls - mid-twenties who can play college age and still older. Who can sing an incredible range and act the hell out of a role that could EASILY be over-acted on the big screen. My friend Angela had some suggestions. I've got some of my own.

aka the Beautifully Tragic

The Shortlist (aka My choice - and Angela's): Anne Hathaway
I know what you're thinking. What? Princess Mia? Yes, Princess Mia. The girl has grown up, and as a former soprano has the range and the chops to pull out the subtle, nervous Elphaba. And if you don't think she has the right internalized rage, let's witness the tabloid fervor that has driven the industry the last few weeks over her public breakup with her con artist boyfriend. Or being forced to work with Kate Hudson on a film called 'Bride Wars' after hanging out with Steve Carrell and The Rock on Get Smart. That'd drive anyone batty.

Youtube Evidence: Anne Hathway performing on stage.

The PLEASE GOD NO List: Katherine McPhee
Okay, so the American Idol Runner Up sang 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'. For the love of GOD keep her away from this film. No, okay? Just... no. There is just not enough experience. And she is NOT Jennifer Hudson.

aka She'll Make You Popular

The Shortlist (aka My and Angela's choice): Kristen Bell
The girl is a trifecta of talent. She can sing, she can dance, and she is hot as hell. Oh yeah, and she also has that acting thing down. A perfect Glinda if there ever was one.

Youtube Evidence: : D'ya remember her in 'Reefer Madness'?

The PLEASE GOD NO List: Scarlett Johansson
Yes, she's beautiful. Yes, she can sing. No, she cannot be Glinda. She's got a low, smoky voice. Hearing her try to hit those soprano hits? Ouchies.

aka Mr. Life isn't As Painless Being Brainless As You'd Think

The Shortlist (aka My choice): Zac Effron
I'm just going to pretend High School Musical doesn't exist. Life is so much better for me when I do. And I'm going to remember what a DAMNED good Link this guy was in Hairspray. And let's face it, isn't that exactly who Fiyero is? The pretty boy who falls in love with the outsider? And dumps his blonde girlfriend? Come on. We know he can play the part. Recent pictures have shown him buffed up, and with those looks, that voice, and that body? He can be my deadbeat prince anyday.

Provided I don't remember about those damned High School Musical movies...

Youtube Evidence: Link living it up for 'Ladies Choice'

The PLEASE GOD NO List: Any of those Jonas Brothers.
I'm not even bothering to link them. Keep those guys away from my musical, yo. I'm serious.

*ahem* But you don't have to take my word for it. What are your cast suggestions? Lindsay Lohan? James Marsden?


  1. I love your choices for leading ladies, which leaves me thinking that Zac might be a little too young.

    How about another Hairspray standout Elijah Kelley?

    And while we're at it, can I put in my vote for Bernadette Peters as Madame Morrible?

  2. I thought of Zac too but I worry he'd be too young for those lovely ladies. Worse yet I fear they cast him first and in an attempt to cast young around him we end up with Disney's High School Wicked Musical.

  3. I'm with you about wishing they would adapt the book instead of the musical. But the musical-to-movie adaptations are too lucrative a business right now.

    As to the casting suggestions, I'm a little iffy. When you first mentioned Anne Hathaway I recalled the Queen song she attempted to sing in one of her movies. The link you provided settled my fears though. Good choice.

    Kristen Bell; I think I need more evidence for her. Glinda is a tough part when it comes to singing. I'm not sure she would be right for the nearly operatic Glinda.

    Zac Efron is on my please god no list. He's just too much of an it boy right now. He's really not that great.

    Besides, one thing that bugged me in the musical is the miss casting of Fiyero. He was different. He was blue for heaven's sake. But he was royalty, so it was ok. Casting a person of color would be the smart choice for the movie.

    I second Bernadette Peters as Madame Morrible.

    Anyway, that's just my two cents. What othe names did you and your friend come up with?

  4. Yeah, I think I may retract my Zac Effron and also go with Elijah Kelley, and there better be blue diamonds! Dammit! Because those sounded hot!

    I think I have a lot more 'oh God No's than actual people who could feasibly play the part, actually. Like Emily Rossum? Yes for Nessa, but PLEASEGODNO for Elphaba.

    Ya see?

  5. I know this goes against the ethnic call for Fiyero, but I also have to mention Jim Sturgess. He was fabulous in Across the Universe and I think he could totally pull off this role.