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Wicked - Facts & figures

Wicked

Compiled by Jack Foley

FROM Merlin to Harry Potter, and from the Salem witches to the fantasy characters of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, the wizards and witches of myth, legend and fact have long held the public’s fascination.

The two highest grossing films released in the UK in 2005 were Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

One of the most enduring stories has been The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But did you know?

1) L. Frank Baum’s (1856-1919) novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900. He subsequently wrote a further 13 Oz books. The final in the series, Glinda of Oz, was published posthumously in 1920.

2) A stage musical adaptation (with book and lyrics by L Frank Baum), entitled The Wizard of Oz opened on Broadway in 1903 at the Majestic Theatre. With music by A. Baldwin Sloane and Paul Tiejens and directed by Julian Mitchell, it became one of the most successful stage extravaganzas of the early twentieth century. 100 years later, in 2003, Wicked, ‘the untold story of the Witches of Oz’, opened triumphantly on Broadway.

3) A silent film version of The Wizard of Oz was released in 1925, featuring a young Oliver Hardy as the ‘Tin Woodsman’.

4) The MGM motion picture, The Wizard of Oz, premiered on August 12, 1939 and went on general release on August 25. The British premiere was held on November 9, 1939. With music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. ‘Yip’ Harburg, The Wizard of Oz won 3 Oscars (Best Song, Best Original Score and a special award for Judy Garland).

5) When The Wizard of Oz was first shown on American television, on November 3, 1956, it achieved an estimated audience of 45 million. In countries all around the world, including the UK, The Wizard of Oz has been shown on television every year ever since.

6) Amongst numerous UK accolades, The Wizard of Oz has been named as one of the ‘100 Greatest Films of All Time’ by Film Four; the ‘Best Ever Family Film’ by ITV1; the third ‘Greatest Musical’ by Channel 4 viewers and one of ‘50 Greatest Films of All Time’ by Vanity Fair.

7) In 1998, the American Film Institute (AFI) named The Wizard of Oz as ‘the 6th Greatest Movie of all time’.

8) The International Online Film Critics Society named Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West the greatest screen villainess of all time.

9) The AFI named the Wicked Witch of the West the ‘fourth greatest screen villain of all time’, behind Darth Vader, Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter. The character’s dramatic impact on the general public is even more surprising given that the Wicked Witch’s entire time on screen is just under 12 minutes.

10) Numerous stage productions of The Wizard of Oz have been presented over the years, most notably in December 1987 when John Kane adapted the MGM film for the RSC. The production premiered at the Barbican Theatre and starred Imelda Staunton. L. Frank’s Baum’s original story was also adapted into the Broadway musical The Wiz, which was later made into a film starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Lena Horne.

Wicked – Did you know?

1) Gregory Maguire wrote his novel Wicked – The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West, on which Wicked is based, while living in London. It was first published in 1995 and there are now over two million copies in print. The sequel, Son Of A Witch, was published in 2005. Wicked is published in the UK by Headline Review.

2) Wicked opened at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre on October 30, 2003, the night before Halloween. The Broadway production has already played over 1,000 sold-out performances and been seen by over two million people. It grosses over $1.4 million a week at the Box Office and has been Broadway’s top-selling show, every week, for over two years.

3) In January 2006, Wicked became the highest-grossing show in Broadway history, taking a record-breaking $1.6 million in a single week (week ending January 1).

4) A North American national tour of Wicked premiered at the Canon Theatre in Toronto in March 2005 and continues to set Box Office records across the US. In St. Louis, the production grossed over $2 million in a single week, the highest weekly gross in North American touring history.

5) The London production of Wicked opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on September 27, 2006 following 22 sell-out previews. In October 2006, it became the highest-grossing show in West End history, taking a record-breaking £761,125 in a single week (week ending October 28).

6) The spectacular production features over 350 costumes, 75 different wigs and 140 pairs of shoes. Over a tonne of ‘dry ice’ is used every week to help conjure up the fantasy world of Oz.

7) The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Wicked won the Grammy Award for ‘Best Musical Show Album’ and has been certified GOLD by the Recording Industry Association of America. It is projected to reach Platinum status in October 2006.

8) The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Wicked is the fastest-selling CD in the history of the UK’s leading musical theatre retailer, Dress Circle. The imported CD has been their top-selling CD since its original release. Decca Broadway has released a re-packaged UK edition of the Broadway Cast Recording.

9) Wicked: The Grimmerie (a 200-page ‘coffee-table’ book that takes a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the musical) is named after Elphaba’s book of spells. Over 150,000 copies have already been sold, making it the best-selling book of its kind in theatre history.

10) Wicked has been called the ‘prequel’ to The Wizard of Oz, but its story actually takes place before, simultaneously and after the familiar tale. Rather than a prequel, author Gregory Maguire calls it “a re-imagining of the same world”.

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