Why Ariana Grande Is the Perfect Casting Choice for ‘Wicked’
Ariana Grande will teach Cynthia Erivo how to be popular (pop-yuh-lar in Ari-speak) in the upcoming film adaptation of Wicked. The ponytailed pop star is set to star opposite Erivo's Elphaba as Glinda, the pink-loving "good" witch originally brought to life by Kristin Chenoweth in the smash hit Broadway show.
No casting announcement will ever be met with universal approval or dismay. For example, more than 40,000 people have singed a petition to keep James Corden away from the stage to screen adaptation — but there's likely a small but mighty subset of Wicked fans championing for the late-night host to get a spot on the cast list.
For every fan celebrating Grande's new role, there's sure to be another who would have preferred to see a different star descend on Oz inside Glinda's signature bubble. However, there are a couple reasons we think the "positions" hit-maker is destined for the role and, in fact, perfect for Glinda.
For starters, this is the sort of casting Grande's trained for most of her life. Casual fans know her as the superstar who topped the Billboard Hot 100 six times in less than a decade. But before she could establish her position atop the charts, she found and nurtured her voice in musical theater.
Grande told Complex that she landed her first role at the age of 8. No, she wasn't a tree or a member of the chorus; she played Annie in a production of Annie. Afterwards, she landed roles in productions of The Wizard of Oz and Beauty and the Beast.
She made her Broadway debut as a teen in 13. Grande credited the musical for helping her strengthen her now supersized voice. "My range exploded because of 13," Grande told Complex.
As a theater fan who grew up during the early millennium, Grande was an avid and public supporter of Wicked. A search on YouTube will return compilations of her singing songs off the soundtrack over the years.
That very much includes a spirited performance of "The Wizard and I" from a 2018 event celebrating the show's 15th anniversary.
While "The Wizard and I" (which Grande also covered in her youth) is sung by Elphaba, the pop star has long listed Glinda as one of her dream roles. She referred to it as such on Twitter in 2011. The tweet even resurfaced this month as fans celebrated her dream coming true.
She also confidently listed Glinda as her preferred role in an interview from the early '10s. "Glinda," she announced without hesitation. "For sure."
Grande even worked with MIKA to put a fresh spin on Glinda's signature song "Popular" in 2013. Clearly, she knows her way around the bubbly witch's equally iconic musical numbers.
Importantly, Grande's casting carries a seal of approval from Chenoweth. "I'm not sure I've ever been this proud," the famous soprano gushed on Instagram after the news broke. "You were destined for this role."
Idina Menzel, who played Elphaba against Chenoweth, also celebrated the news on social media.
It's hard to argue with the stars who know the characters best, huh? While that may be true, some have turned to Twitter to voice hesitations they have about Grande taking on the role. Surprisingly, many complaints stem from her voice.
One user noted that the pop star has often been criticized for how she enunciates while singing. "Glinda is precise," they wrote. "Ariana has it in her but hasn’t been led in that direction historically."
Grande herself has referenced her enunciation at points during her career. She recently told a competitor on The Voice that "it sounds like another language" when she sings pop music, according to Just Jared.
She even poked fun at people being unable to understand her hit "Problem" ahead of a 2016 appearance on Saturday Night Live.
While Grande copped to what some pop fans call singing in "cursive," there are a couple important things to note about her most recent statement on the matter.
First of all, she is aware that she sings without proper enunciation, which implies that she has a level of control over it. She also emphasized that the enunciation "problems" take place when she sings pop, meaning that it is a stylistic choice that would not impact her ability to sing more precisely in a musical theater setting.
For instance, Grande delivered a precise performance of "Still Hurting" from the musical The Last Five Years in 2020, proving that she is indeed capable of tightening up her diction.
If anything, that versatility should make Grande all the more qualified for the film adaptation of Wicked. She has a background in Broadway, but is able to adapt to fit a variety of roles. That should sound familiar...
Glinda never tackles a song quite like "7 rings," but her character's growth from prissy and popularity-obsessed to self-aware is every bit as essential to the plot as Elphaba's journey. Who better to play her than someone who has experienced her own growth and is able to mine emotions from a wide depth of performance knowledge.
This movie is one that people have been anticipating since Wicked first debuted in 2003. Expectations are high, and a lot could go wrong as the musical is transformed to fit the big screen.
Grande, a self-professed super fan who has worked toward this casting since she was just a kid, is sure to treat it with the utmost respect and care. She may not be Chenoweth's Glinda, but she'll be her very own version — one that we look forward to see come to life.
Like Elphaba and Glinda, you might be wondering: What is this feeling? We're pretty sure it's excitement and joy in an era when both are much-needed!