Theatre News

Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande sang live for Wicked movie filming, director reveals

Films like Les Misérables also used the method

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Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande, © Universal Pictures

The hype for the first Wicked movie was taken up a notch today following a major Vanity Fair feature on the upcoming flick – which has its world premiere later this year.

The feature, which included interviews with cast members and director Jon M Chu, also provided a first look at some of the cast members in costume – which you can see below.

Wicked’s first movie (there will be two parts to the screen version), adapted from the long-running stage show of the same name, is set to star Cynthia Erivo as the green Elphaba and Ariana Grande the pink- and popularity-obsessed Glinda, alongside the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Bailey, Jeff Goldbum and Ethan Slater.

Chu has revealed that, as part of the filming process, as little CGI as possible was used, while his leads also wanted to deliver natural, rather than pre-recorded numbers. He explained to Vanity Fair: “When we were shooting it, those girls were like, ‘F**k the pre-records. We’re going live.’”

Chu admitted he was sceptical about the decision (“‘There’s going to be a lot of wind in your air pipes. Is that okay?’ he asked”), but claimed that the pair, who both have lengthy and successful careers in performing live, many times a week (Grande in the world of music, Erivo in the world of West End and Broadway theatre), “didn’t miss a beat”.

This went so far that, by the time it got to Erivo recording “Defying Gravity”, she was “sailing through the Western sky belting high F’s.” Grande explains that that sequence involved Erivo in “a harness pulling and pushing and yanking and tugging on every nook and cranny that there is. But Grande also got her own moments of fun, with Erivo remembering how her co-star “jumping on a chandelier over my head whilst singing.”

The practice of filming live on set is slightly unorthodox for musical movies – often vocals are pre-recorded before being lip-synced to on set by cast members in order to maintain vocal health, especially if there are multiple takes of the same number.

There are, of course, exceptions: the award-winning Les Misérables film did something similar where all cast members recorded live, while Chu’s recent film, In the Heights, featured a number recorded live – “Champagne”.

How Wicked turns out will be revealed on 27 November 2024 when the first part is released in cinemas. Early buzz has been overwhelmingly positive from trusted sources, so we’re very excited to see the stage show on the big screen.

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