Jon M. Chu's Praise For Ariana Grande And Cynthia Erivo Will Get You Hyped For The Wicked Movie

Musicals have been enjoying a bit of a resurgence on screen lately. Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights drew critical praise when it played in theaters, and the filmed version of Hamilton was a mega hit for the Disney+ streaming service (and showed us elements of the show that the soundtrack couldn’t deliver). Steven Spielberg tread on hallowed ground when he reinterpreted West Side Story for a new generation. The film was a love letter to Stephen Sondheim – who died shortly before the movie reached theaters – and earned a much-deserved Oscar for Ariana DeBose, a literal historical win. Now we are looking ahead to Jon M. Chu’s planned adaptation of the Tony and Drama Desk award winner Wicked, and his recent praise for his leading ladies will have fans hyped.

Wicked has had a long trek to movie theaters, facing major setbacks in the face of directors departing the feature, or original stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth being rumored but never officially cast. Finally, the wheels started turning on Jon. M. Chu’s two-part Wicked adaptation when he officially cast Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande in the lead roles, though the filmmaker has gone radio silent since that moment. That’s about to change. Sitting down with CinemaBlend to discuss his career as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Chu spoke on Wicked and his talented leads, telling us:

I spent the last year getting to know Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book. Marc Platt (has been) working with our creative team. Paul Tazewell is doing the costumes. He did Hamilton and West Side Story. And we have (production designer) Nathan Crowley who has done a lot of Chris Nolan’s stuff. He just did Wonka. … We have a great team, and we’re coming up with some great stuff. And when you see Cynthia sing the songs, and when you see Ariana singing these songs, they interpret it in a way that I’ve never experienced Wicked before. It means something different.

It goes without saying that Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande are incredibly gifted singers who should be able to tackle signature Wicked tracks such as “Popular,” “I’m Not That Girl,” and  of course “Defying Gravity.” If you haven’t yet, please watch Erivo sing “Can’t Hurry Love” as part of Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale. Here, I’ll just include it for you, so you can get goosebumps.

Original Wicked stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth already voiced support for the new ladies occupying the roles, and Erivo praised the chemistry she is building with Grande. Now all that’s left is for Jon M. Chu to pour his heart and soul into the production, and as he spoke about the songs and the legacy, we came to realize how right he his for this gig. Chu told CinemaBlend:

I love a lot of the songs. All of the songs! I will not tell you my favorites, yet. (laughs) They will come. But I will say that I also love the show, and I understand the responsibility that this is the first time we are going to crystalize this show. So I’m not here to make it the hip-hop version, or some remixed millennial version. I’m here to give honor to what it is. But also, this is 2022. Things have changed, perspectives have changed, and the movie is about perspective and change. And how hard it is to change, that sometimes you have to pop your bubble and come out and engage with the world. And sometimes that engagement means feeling angry. Maybe sometimes, that engagement means feeling sad. Maybe that engagement means it’s not the easy Yellow Brick Road for you. That it’s off the beaten path. Maybe it’s about, ‘The wizard’s not going to solve all of your problems.’ It’s up to us to face each other. And I think those messages are very important today, and I can’t wait to express that in something like Wicked.

Now, settle in. Wicked: Part One is in pre-production, and is scheduled to hit theaters on December 25, 2024. Want to see something in a theater before that? Hit our 2022 Movie Release Calendar and pick a feature today.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.