“Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” premiered on Broadway in October 2003. But before it hit theaters in New York, the multimillion dollar production impressed San Francisco audiences with a test run by the Best of Broadway company. In the Spark episode “The Engineering of Art,” we watch as the production crew tries to mount sets on a scale rarely seen at the Curran Theatre. From coordinating a fire-breathing dragon and flying monkeys to a spinning bed and enormous moving gears, the production team puts on a special effects show worthy of the great Wizard of Oz himself.
Based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” includes music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell” and “Pippin”). The musical tells the story of two girls in the Land of Oz, one of whom become the Wicked Witch of the West and the other the Good Witch, Glinda. The stars of the original production were Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth, Tony nominee Idina Menzel (the original Maureen in “Rent”) and legendary two-time Tony winner Robert Morse.
The process of bringing “Wicked” to stage was no easy engineering feat. Costing $14 million, the play’s production involved over 150 people and took almost two years to become a reality. Built in Calgary, Ontario the show’s complex set took over a year and a half to design and had to travel over 1,500 miles to the Curran Theatre in San Francsico. Although the labor intensive set includes flying houses, a mechanized fire-breathing dragon, and individually hand-dyed corn fields, the hardest part of design proved to be staying away from the visual images of the original film version of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Under the direction of Carole Shorenstein Hays and Scott E. Nederlander, Best of Broadway is committed to bringing high-quality musicals and award-winning plays to the Bay Area. Over the years, local subscribers to the Best of Broadway have enjoyed a host of works, from the Tony Award-winning play “Fences” to the spectacular United States premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s production of Puccini’s “La Boheme.” Best of Broadway venues in the San Francisco-Bay Area include the Curran Theatre, the Golden Gate Theatre, and the Orpheum Theatre.