11 Thrillifying Jewish Facts About ‘Wicked’

In honor of the Broadway blockbuster’s upcoming film adaptation, we’ve collected some Jewish tidbits to change the way you view the beloved musical for good.

What’s so Jewish about “Wicked”? Composer Stephen Schwartz once reflected in an interview, “I think a lot of musical theater themes speak to Jewish audiences because in many instances musicals are about outsiders, striving to discover how they might fit in. That’s the story of ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Billy Elliott’ — none of them so-called Jewish musicals. ‘Wicked’ is not overtly Jewish-themed but it certainly resonates with many Jewish people’s experience.”

So yeah, the number of possible answers is, well, unlimited. And in honor of the Broadway blockbuster’s upcoming film adaptation, we’ve collected some Jewish facts to change the way you view the beloved musical for good. Let’s get this show started!

1. We’ll begin with the stage musical’s brilliant creators. While “Wicked” is based on a novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire (not a Jew), the musical was co-written by New York Jews Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz!

Yep, that’s the same Stephen Schwartz who we just quoted and who wrote the music for “The Prince of Egypt,” arguably the best piece of animated cinema in history. We will not be hearing counterarguments at this time.

2. The original blockbuster musical was also produced by a Jew: award-winning producer (and father of Broadway star Ben) Marc Platt! Marc will also be producing the upcoming two-part film adaptation, coming to theaters this November.

3. Did we mention the show premiered on Broadway in October 2003 at the Gershwin Theatre, named after iconic Jewish brothers George and Ira Gershwin? Talk about l’dor v’dor!

4. If you’re no stranger to Oz, you probably already know that Jewish Broadway legend Idina Menzel originated the character of Elphaba Thropp. But the Jew-lphaba legacy didn’t end there!

5. The gravity-defying protagonist continues to be portrayed by a long line of talented Jewish actresses, including Shoshanna Bean and Caissie Levy. All hail our green Jewish queens.

6. Speaking of original “Wicked” cast members who are also part of the tribe, Tony award-winner Joel Grey was the first to play the Wizard of Oz onstage! Joel is best known for portraying the Master of Ceremonies in “Cabaret” on Broadway and in the 1972 film adaptation.

7. Not only that, but the “Wicked” film will also feature a Jewish Wizard: actor Jeff Goldblum! ICYMI, Jeff showed up to the 2024 Met Gala this year wearing a totally swankified fit with green glasses (perhaps a not-so-subtle wink to his upcoming role?).

8. And we can’t forget about our newest Boq, actor and singer Ethan Slater! Ethan’s a Jewish day school kid-turned Broadway star who has just made the jump from silly sea sponge on the stage to yearning munchkin on the silver screen. Mazels!

9. Let’s talk plot. Macguire’s original novel features an Oz under the oppressive regime of the Wizard and, according to many readers, consequently alludes to the agenda, ideology and policies of Nazi fascism during the Third Reich. While the text’s theatrical adaptation is not explicitly Holocaust-themed, themes of prejudice and social rejection have been carried over into the musical and do feel undeniably Jewish.

10. Jewish actress (and former Broadway Elphaba) Talia Suskauer seems to agree. In an interview with the Forward, she shared, “There’s a line in the show that says, ‘The people just need a really good enemy. They need a scapegoat.’ Throughout history, Jews have been designated as that scapegoat. If there’s an issue, the Jews did it. This happens time and time again — the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust — and that’s exactly what is happening here on the show. It’s happened to other minority groups, but as a Jewish woman, I can only bring my experience, and it hits really hard. The weight of it is not lost on me, and I consider it my duty to tell the story with my own personal thoughts and experiences intertwined with it.”

11. And lastly, at the time of publication, Broadway’s current Glinda is Jewish and we are rejoicifying! On March 5, 2024, Alexandra Socha took her rightful place in The Bubble. (Bonus fun fact: Socha is married to actor Etai Benson, who also played the Motel to her Tzeitel in the Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Love a Jewish showmance!).

“Wicked” will be in movie theaters on Nov. 27 — we can’t wait!

Avital Dayanim

Avital Dayanim (she/her) is a writer and visual artist from Boston and Hey Alma's Audience Engagement Editor. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.

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