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Wicked movie will be split into 2 films with Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo

The unexpected announcement was made Tuesday by the project's director.

LOS ANGELES — Wicked, the hit Broadway show, won't be made into just one movie. It's being made into two.

Director Jon Chu made the surprise announcement Tuesday afternoon.

Chu, known for films like "Crazy Rich Asians" and "In the Heights," said the project's developers recently realized they couldn't wrestle the Wicked story into one movie without "doing some real damage" to the plot.

"As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years," Chu tweeted. "So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas..."

Chu said the decision will allow the creative team to bring more depth to the beloved characters like Elphaba and Glinda.

The two witches were originally brought to life on stage by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, who recently returned to Ruth Eckerd Hall. In the films, the characters will be played by Tony and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo (Elphaba) and Grammy winner and pop superstar Ariana Grande (Glinda).

"Cynthia, Ariana, and I – and all of the cast and crew – pledge to create nothing less than an experience that honors its foundation for all the fans who've waited for this movie, and to offer a thrilling, fantastical world full of dynamic characters that invites in those who are unfamiliar," Chu added.

Long in development, Chu expects the first Wicked movie installment to finally be released in December 2024. He promised to keep fans up-to-date throughout the rehearsal and filming process.

Wicked is based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire. It was adapted for the stage by composer Stephen Schwartz and playwright Winnie Holzman. Schwartz has composed such hits as Pippin and Godspell. Holzman was nominated for an Emmy for her work in creating the ABC television drama "My So-Called Life."

Wicked tells the story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in. It chronicles the friendship and hardships between the two witches, Elphaba and Glinda.

The touring production will return to the Straz Center in Tampa in March 2023.

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