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Meet Brittney Johnson, soon to be Broadway’s first Black Glinda in ‘Wicked’

A woman with curly blond hair wearing a blue ballgown and wielding a magic scepter
Brittney Johnson as Glinda in Broadway’s “Wicked.”
(Joan Marcus)

Broadway’s production of “Wicked” has been changed for the better.

Brittney Johnson, current understudy for Glinda, will assume the role of the good witch beginning next year, the long-running musical announced Tuesday. She’ll be the first Black actor to play Glinda full-time in the Broadway show’s 18-year history.

“It’s an honor,” Johnson told People magazine of her recent promotion.

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“I only had a few people who I feel like I could look up to when I was starting this journey, and it’s still a little surreal for me when people send me messages and write me letters saying that I am the reason why they feel like they can pursue their dream, that I am the person that they are looking up to. It feels like an awesome responsibility and one that I am grateful for,” she said.

The heroine of the blockbuster musical ‘Wicked,’ who is othered because of her skin color, has been primarily played by white actors since 2003.

Johnson will make her official debut as Glinda Feb. 14 at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre opposite Alexandra Billings as Madame Morrible, Michael McCormick as the Wizard, Sam Gravitte as Fiyero, Jordan Barrow as Boq, Mili Diaz as Nessarose, Michael X. Martin as Doctor Dillamond and Lindsay Pearce as Elphaba.

In 2019, Johnson made history as the first actor of color to take the Broadway stage as the bubbly, blond enchantress while understudying the coveted part.

“It was like a rock concert,” Johnson told People of her first Broadway performance as Glinda, during which she tried to “remain very calm and steady.”

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Johnson previously appeared in Broadway’s “Les Misérables,” “Motown,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and “Kristin Chenoweth: For the Girls.”

In a video message Tuesday, Chenoweth — who originated the role of Glinda opposite Idina Menzel’s Elphaba on Broadway in 2003 — congratulated Johnson on her groundbreaking achievement.

“I am so proud of you,” Chenoweth said. “You’ll be handling the wand and crown just as I did and probably better. ... Break a leg, and you know I love you, baby.”

On the night of her February debut, Johnson plans to wear a necklace Chenoweth gave her in 2019. The pendant reads, “Toss, toss,” a reference to one of Glinda’s lines in the musical.

“I opened it, and I immediately started crying,” Johnson told People. “I bring it out for special occasions.”

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The latest “Wicked” casting update comes a month after director Jon M. Chu revealed that Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo had been cast as Glinda and Elphaba, respectively, in his forthcoming film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning production.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Ashley Lee noted last month, the casting of Erivo is significant because white actors have mostly portrayed Elphaba onstage. The only Black woman to play the gravity-defying sorceress in any major theater production is Alexia Khadime, who starred as Elphaba on London’s West End from 2008 to 2010.

“A lot of racism came with that because I was a Black girl playing the role that was predominantly played by a white girl,” Khadime told Marie Claire last year.

“There were definitely people who made comments that I was taking away the white roles. At the time I played Elphaba, Obama was president. Then the comments were, ‘Just because we’ve got a Black president doesn’t mean we have to have a Black Elphaba.’”

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Upon receiving the news from “Wicked” producer David Stone that she would be Broadway’s next Glinda in 2022, Johnson said she could barely speak over the phone.

“There was silence because I probably was sitting on the other line just like not breathing!” she told People.

“He was like, ‘Hello? Are you there? Are you excited?’ I was like, ‘Yes, I’m very excited.’ He had to wake me up because I feel like I’m in a dream.”


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