No one mourns the wicked…but they sure do celebrate them.
A Very Wicked Halloween, which aired Monday night on NBC, celebrated Wicked’s 15 magical years on Broadway with an ample assist from the show’s two original stars — Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. While the original good witch and bad witch (we’ll leave it up to you to decide who actually deserves those monikers) played host to a wide range of performances, they also got to reprise some of their biggest hits from the show and share an emotional finale with many former Glindas and Elphabas.
Nothing can quite touch the magic of seeing a live production of Wicked (and the original cast was truly exceptional), but Monday night was a warm celebration of the show’s many magical moments and Stephen Schwartz’s indelible score, which has quickly entered the compendium of American Broadway classics (I dare you to ask any high school drama kid circa 2004 whether they know the words and not get a full karaoke session).
Wicked has always been about the music — earning fans with its cast recording long before it launched its first national tour. Knowing that woes are fleeting when you’re dancing through life, A Very Wicked Halloween stuck to its greatest hits performed in a swankified version of the Oz Dust ballroom. The night was dotted with musical performances and fun facts book-ending the commercial break (400 pounds of dry ice are used at every performance! Elphaba’s skirt required 290 yards of fabric!) thrown in for good measure. Here are the five best moments from A Very Wicked Halloween.
“As Long as You’re Mine”
Wicked’s sensual love ballad has always been a fan favorite (let me tell you when you’re 15 and the cutest boy in your theater class agrees to sing it with you, that ‘ish is potent), and Adam Lambert and Ledisi really delivered in their version of the duet. Ledisi opened the number, offering up a soulful take on Elphaba’s half of the song. Lambert has a long history with Wicked having been a member of the ensemble and taken the stage as leading man Fiyero in the first national tour and Los Angeles company, and he proved he’s still wickedly talented here. He modified the arrangement to showcase his voice as when he took the song to a higher vocal range on the lyrics “it’s up that I fell.” The duo harmonized brilliantly and put their own spin on it, adding some impressive vocal riffs at the song’s conclusion in the place of the dialogue there. It’s not for the first time, but this duet definitely made us feel…wicked.
The Witches Still Got It…
As Chenoweth asked (borrowing a line from Glinda) when she entered, “It’s good to see us, isn’t it?” And it was. No moments in the show could top performances from her and Menzel belting out their most famous songs, “Popular” and “Defying Gravity.” Chenoweth teased to EW that she had changed up the song a bit to reflect the social media age of 2018, and this was reflected in her encouraging fans to film the number with their phones and inviting one lucky fan onstage to take a selfie. She looked every inch the Glinda we all love in a blingy, hot pink dress with matching sparkly eyeshadow, and Chenoweth put her usual effervescent spin on her signature tune with hilarious calls for applause.
Menzel shook things up on “Defying Gravity” offering a more stripped-down pop version of the song (akin to the one she does in concert). Like Elphaba, the new arrangement of the song felt strange and unusual at first, but as it went on, the quieter take infused the lyrics with a deeper emotional heft. She took the stage in an emerald sparkling gown that would make even Elphaba green with envy, getting the audience in on the fun with a brief sing-along interlude. Menzel’s voice is still one-of-a-kind, meaning that final gravity-defying note easily gave us goosebumps. Chenoweth and Menzel will always be our Glinda and Elphie, and they reminded us why at this 15th anniversary celebration.
Pentatonix fills us with loathing admiration on “What Is This Feeling?”
Pentatonix is beloved for their ability to put a unique acapella spin on some of the most popular songs, and they didn’t disappoint with their take on “What Is This Feeling?” (sometimes referred to as “Loathing” in shorthand). The song, which is a duet between Elphaba and Glinda that transforms into a full ensemble number, came to vividly green (and pink) life in Pentatonix’s hands with the vocal group creating all of the song’s musical backing and choral sections with the sheer power of their five voices. If you’re a Wicked fan, you’ll be listening to this take on the song your whole life long.
Ariana Grande leaves us with no tears left to cry
Pop star Ariana Grande’s roots are all Broadway, and the superstar has been obsessed with Wicked since she first saw the original Broadway production at 9 years old. Explaining the origin of the song as a tune designed to showcase Menzel’s unique range and showing a photo of Grande backstage with Chenoweth as a child, Chenoweth and Menzel welcomed a green-clad Grande (green lipstick and nails!) to the stage to perform “The Wizard and I.” For all her pop star image, there’s no denying that Grande has serious vocal chops and she knocks this classic “I Want” song out of the park, delivering both the song’s classic Broadway phrasing with some of her own pop riffs. Belting the final verse Grande seems like the sheer power of her voice could propel her to fly. It would be alright by us if someone decides to greenify Grande in the future. What a pair they are – Grande and this song.
I don’t know if I’ve been changed for the better…
We’ve heard it said that people shows come into our life for a reason…over the last 15 years, we can definitively say that Wicked has changed our lives (and Broadway) for good. The special closed with a stirring tribute to this magical musical, a moment so emotional it made Chenoweth choke up onstage while her former costar Idina Menzel clutched her hand. The pair thanked fans and all the Wicked cast, crew, and creative team of the last 15 years before launching into the show’s final duet, which as Chenoweth said sums up the heart of the musical – a message of “love, inclusion, and tolerance.” It was incredibly moving to see Chenoweth and Menzel partner on this song after all this time. While the show was running, it was plagued by rumors that Chenoweth and Menzel didn’t get along, but it’s hard to believe that when they clasp hands and sing “Because I knew you I have been changed for good” in voices thick with emotion. In that moment, you can read all the attendant meaning of the song and how this shared career highlight has touched their lives for good. The song was made even more special when a host of former Glindas and Elphabas, including Shoshana Bean, Eden Espinosa, and Laura Bell Bundy, joined the original duo onstage. This chorus of women singing about the complex, powerful nature of friendship and sisterhood was the perfect testament to the magic of Wicked’s 15 years on Broadway — and it will stay with us like a handprint on our heart.