“WICKED” IN CONCERT a fresh take on the iconic Broadway musical on PBS

 The wickedly passionate fans of the smash hit musical “WICKED” have an incredible treat in store with “WICKED” IN CONCERT, a musical celebration of the iconic Broadway score, which premieres Sunday, August 29, 2021 on PBS.

 It is an exciting musical event that hopes to help launch Broadway’s return to live shows after the long Covid intermission theaters across the country have experienced.

 The PBS special features great singers performing the songs from Wicked.  The special is cohosted by the show’s original Broadway stars, Emmy and Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth, and Tony Award winner Idina Menzel. Plus it features performances by Ariana DeBose, Cynthia Erivo, Stephanie Hsu, the legendary Rita Moreno, country artist Jennifer Nettles, Alex Newell, Isaac Powell, Gabrielle Ruiz, Amber Riley, and more. 

Amber Riley

 “WICKED” IN CONCERT is directed by one of Broadway’s best,  Baayork Lee, who brings her unique, fresh take on it. Musical direction is by Luke Frazier who created the orchestra arrangements with members of the American Pops Orchestra. Credit goes to Wicked’s composer Stephen Schwartz who allowed a reimagining of his music. “There’s no better way to keep music fresh and change lives in new ways,” Frazier told the Television Critics Association at PBS’ Zoom press sessions for the TCA’s Summer 2021 press tour.

 On hand virtually was composer Schwartz, who is amazingly humble despite being the winner of three Oscars, four Grammy Awards, and a special Tony Award. Godspell and Pippin are also among his impressive credits. He is the person responsible for all the awesome music in Wicked that has inspired the musical’s enthusiastic devotees. And he offered some tidbits about this phenomenal show.

Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel

 PBS viewers will enjoy Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel singing “For Good,” a song that is very special to Schwartz, who revealed, “All the songs are my children, which, of course, is a bit of a cliché, but we do try not to play favorites.  That being said, I’m really proud of ‘For Good.’  I am so proud of how it’s come to be used outside the show for everything from graduations to funerals.”

  Schwartz said the book writer of Wicked, Winnie Holzman, actually came up with the song title.  He explained, “When we were first talking about the final song for Elphaba and Glinda, and I was brainstorming with Winnie, at one point she just said in the conversation, ‘Well, you know, they have had such an impact on one another.  Really they have changed each other for good.’  And she starts to go on, and I said, ‘I’m hanging up now because that’s one of the best titles for a song I can imagine.  So thank you for giving me the title.  Now I am going to go write it.’” That’s how the unforgettable song was created.

 Schwartz also share some memories from the first performance of Wicked. He recalled, “We did a whole lot of workshops and readings leading up to actual performances, but the first performance was the first preview in San Francisco in 2003, when we were doing our out-of-town tryout.  We were, of course, terrified.  The show was at least a half-hour longer than it is now.  We didn’t even know if the scenery was going to fall down. But when it started and Kristin came out in her bubble and said, ‘It’s good to see me, isn’t it,’ and got a wonderful response from the audience, we were a bit relieved.”  

 He added, “Then when Idina made her entrance as the Wicked Witch of the West and she got entrance applause, which we knew at that point was not for Idina, it was for the character of the Wicked Witch, and we thought, okay, maybe we are going to be all right here. That’s when all the work of refining and recutting and revising and rewriting came to pass.  I just know we all breathed a big sigh of relief after that first preview.”

 The rest is Broadway history that will be celebrated with the musical special. Tune in “WICKED” IN CONCERT, premiering Sunday, August 29, 2021 on PBS. 

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.