Then again, let’s give Universal some credit. The beauty of Holzman and Schwartz’s musical is that, aside from the catchy songs and gritty plot machinations, it completely re-imagines the events of the 1939 classic, creating a whole new world of possibilities for green-skinned witch, Elphaba (Erivo), and her on-off buddy, stereotypical It girl, Glinda. Those coming to the material fresh will probably assume Michelle Yeoh’s character, university head, Madame Morrible, is some sort of inspirational, Dumbledore-esque mentor, who wants the young women to fulfil their potential. Yeoh’s line in the trailer feels a little robotic: “Once you learn to harness your emotions, the sky’s the limit”. But if you know what Morrible is up to, that works.
In the same way, those unacquainted with Jonathan Bailey, who plays Elphaba’s love interest, Fiyero, might think him unworthy of the mighty Erivo. But Bailey (who was insanely seductive as the Viscount in Bridgerton, as well as distractingly excellent as a hacker in Doctor Who) is an inspired choice. He and Erivo are the sort of wily actors who know exactly how to upend expectations, get us sobbing and/or create sexual heat. If anyone can make Elphaba and Fiyero sing, it’s these two.
Speaking of which, the trailer seems almost embarrassed that the film we’ll get to see in November is a musical. As in the trailers for Wonka and the recent Mean Girls musical film, trilling is kept to a minimum. But the tiny riff at the end (giving us a snatch of Defying Gravity, as we’ve never heard it before) allows Erivo to let rip. Her voice is scarily good, and this movie still has the potential to be wicked.
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