Who's Who in Wicked the Musical and Novel
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Who is Elphaba? Who is Galinda?.... NOTE: This text contains some "spoilers." If you prefer to see the show not knowing anything, skip this page and get tickets to the show soon! Broadway
Notes by Carol de Giere, webmaster for this independent website
Choosing from the 38 speaking characters in Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked, the writers of Wicked the musical decided to focus their show on eight key characters plus a few others and the ensemble.
Character: Elphaba, (nickname Elphie) the green girl who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West
Elphaba made the list of Entertainment Weekly's List of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years, and deservedly so. She is at the center of both the immensely popular musical and novel Wicked. Elphaba is the intense, broody, smart heroine who often carries a sense of burden of her oddness.
In the musical we meet Elphaba for a moment as a baby and then as a teenager. She would like it if Ozians could accept her, setting aside their prejudice for her natural hue. Everything changes when she meets Galinda, Fiyero, and the Wizard. In her transition during "Defying Gravity," she expresses her new goal and role as someone striving to right the wrongs in Oz.
Wicked novelist Gregory Maguire invented the witch's name "Elphaba" based on the name for the author of The Wizard of Oz. L. F(rank) B(aum). L-F-B = Elphaba.
When composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz found out about Maguire's book and the Elphaba character, he decided to write a musical about her, and eventually Wicked came to be. Read the full story of Wicked's development in Defying Gravity - my biography of Schwartz that includes 150 pages on the making of Wicked.
Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba. Read comments from Idina Menzel (original Elphaba) about the character Elphaba
Character: Glinda/Galinda, The blond who becomes "Glinda the Good" Witch
Both the novel and musical introduce Glinda as her younger self, Galinda Upland of the Upper Uplands, a blatantly self-centered young blond. Gregory Maguire disassociated her from an archetypal "good" to make her a pretentious goodie goodie. The musical's writers juxtaposed the two women who were superficially "bad (or misfit)" and "good" but underneath were nearly the opposite (until Glinda evolves as a person). Read about Kristin Chenoweth - the original Glinda in Wicked the musical
Character: Madame Morrible, the headmistress at Shiz University.
In the musical, her talents in sorcery are rather limited (although she recognizes talent in others). She doesn't influence the fate of the three witches in the musical in the same way as she does in the novel. She pursues her connections with Oz's chief. Her misuse of power is her undoing. Morrible is the only classic villain in this musical tale.
In the photo, Carol Kane who played Madame Morrible on Broadway, bows at the end of a Wicked performance. In this close up you can see how costume designer Susan Hilferty supported the character through the magical fancy of the gold and deep green. Photo is by Ben Strothmann for BroadwayWorld.com, used by special permission.
Character: Fiyero, a handsome prince, fellow student, and love interest.
Fiyero is a Winkie prince. The Winkies inhabit one of the regions of Oz (as in Frank Baum's original). He begins as a carefree college-age hedonist who invites fellow students to party. He transforms as his romantic interests shift. . . .
[continued below photo from opening night curtain call]
Character: Dr. Dillamond, a professor at Shiz University who is a talking Goat, and someone Elphaba befriends. Read more about Animals in Wicked novel and musical
Character: The Wizard of Oz
As in the movie, the Wizard of Oz is an old carnival huckster who blew into Oz in a hot air balloon and became a false-faced leader. But there's a twist in both Maguire's novel and the musical with regard to the relationship between the Wizard and Elphaba. [I wont' give that one away but if you read the novel carefully you will know what happens]
Character: Nessarose, the Witch 's invalid sister
Nessarose Thropp is Elphaba's sister. Gregory Maguire named her after Virginia Woolf's sister Vanessa, known as "Nessa." According to the novelist, she was born both crippled and armless. On stage she has arms but is in a wheelchair.
Character: Boq, an unusually tall Munchkin with eyes for Galinda/Glinda. In the novel he is less significant than in the musical.
Characters: Frex and Melina
The novel's early chapters set Elphaba's parents at odds at before birth. Readers learn about Melena, a former aristocrat who is terribly unhappy with her husband Frexpar, (a zealous missionary minister in the book). Her tactics for emotional survival include chewing on the leaves of a local narcotic plant and engaging in semiconscious affairs. From her first pregnancy comes a green-skinned child and though it is assumed that Frexpar is the father, there is some doubt. Between that, the daughter's odd color, and her queer behavior, the discombobulated parents create an estranged home life for their first child.
In the musical, Melina and Frex appear for only a few minutes during the birth scene at the end of Act 1, Scene 1. Frex is no longer a minister, but the Governor of Munchkinland. He cares only for his second child, Nessarose, which adds to Elphaba's frustrations.
In the musical, Dorothy only appears as a shadow projected onto a drape. In other words her famous melting scene where she tosses water on the witch happens behind a curtain. In Maguire's novel she appears several times, as he leads the story through more of what L. Frank Baum wrote about the melting and subsequent moments.
Averic, Nanny, Fiyero's Wife, Liir
MISSPELLINGS: Some people mispell Elphaba as Alphaba or Alpheba or Elfeba; Glinda as Glenda.
WICKED SEQUEL: Read about Maguire's Wicked sequel Son of a Witch - About Liir and others.
WICKED - NEW EDITION OF MAGUIRE'S NOVEL at Amazon.com: Musical Tie-in Edition : The Life... [new browser window]
features 16 pages of photos from the musical. Total 448 pages (no new text).
Elphaba Photo by Joan Marcus