On November 4, director Jon M. Chu announced that Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande had been cast in the upcoming film adaptation of the Broadway musical “Wicked.” Erivo and Grande were cast in the lead roles of Elphaba and Glinda, respectively. The casting announcement drew both praise and criticism from fans.
“Wicked,” which tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” is one of Broadway’s best-loved and longest-running musicals. For most stage shows that achieve this level of fame – like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” – the inevitable next step is a film adaptation, thus extending the film’s reach beyond the isolated world. of live theater and strengthening its position in the public consciousness.
But despite being released more than fifteen years ago, “Wicked” has never been adapted for the cinema, even if it is not for lack of having tried. A film adaptation of “Wicked” was first confirmed in 2015, and since then the production has encountered several hurdles. With a release date constantly pushed back, a changing creative team, and no casting announcements in sight, fans grew skeptical of making a “Wicked” movie, until the cast of Erivo and Grande was announced. confirmed earlier this month.
The casting of Erivo, a Tony Award-winning actress and singer, was widely positively received. Erivo already has experience on both stage and screen, having starred in “The Color Purple” on Broadway as well as the lead character in the movie “Harriet.” Her resume, along with her impressive vocal skills, make her a clear choice for the iconic role of Elphaba.
Grande’s casting, on the other hand, drew mixed reactions. While performing on Broadway as a teenager, playing a small role in the musical “13,” Grande spent most of her career as a pop star. Although Grande is clearly a talented singer, a number of Glinda’s songs call for a classically influenced sound – a vocal style that Grande has rarely, if ever, exhibited. It’s certainly possible that she has the ability to pull it off, but since there are hardly any recordings of her singing in a lyrical style, she’ll have to prove it.
However, all of the attention during the “Wicked” casting announcement wasn’t on Grande. Less than four days after the official release, a Change.org Petition was launched to keep James Corden out of the “Wicked” movie. The “Late Late Show” host’s appearance in seemingly every new musical — including “Cats,” “The Prom” and “Cinderella” — led audiences to quickly tire of him.
“James Corden should not be in or near the production of Wicked the Movie in any way,” the petition reads. By November 18, it had collected more than 94,000 signatures.
This massive and vehement dislike of James Corden is an interesting development. It was long believed that musicals had to hire well-known Hollywood actors to generate enough public interest for the film to be a success. For example, Julie Andrews was passed over for Audrey Hepburn in the film version of “My Fair Lady”, although Andrews originated the role on Broadway, as Hepburn was more of a household name than Andrews at the time. Hepburn could not sing her role properly, and her voice was dubbed in the film by Marni Nixon.
“Wicked” appears to work on a similar principle — casting a well-known celebrity to boost sales — by casting Ariana Grande, one of the world’s biggest pop stars, as opposed to a professional Broadway actress. But this petition against James Corden shows that people just aren’t as receptive to celebrity casting as the creative team might think. A famous name on a movie poster isn’t a draw if the chosen celebrity isn’t someone the audience likes.
So what led to this preemptive backlash against the potential casting of James Corden? People are ultimately annoyed with how casting celebrities in musicals seems like a quick cash grab, especially when such casting doesn’t make any sense. For example, “Cats” had a cast of starry and frankly confusing names, from Taylor Swift to yes, James Corden, and that didn’t stop it from suffering from rushed CGI, poor box office sales, and the ridicule of the general public. In fact, bad casting arguably made the movie worse. Movie musicals have largely become a vehicle for celebrity hubris, which is disappointing given the genre’s potential for rich, authentic storytelling.
If anyone had to understand why musicals don’t need celebrity castings, it would be director Jon M. Chu. Its 2021 adaptation of the musical “In the Heights” largely avoided stunts, instead relying on elements such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s set design, choreography and musical score, and the film was well received. — which is why Grande’s casting in “Wicked” is so singularly frustrating. “Wicked” doesn’t need to be associated with a celebrity name to be successful.