Friday, October 24, 2008
The Wicked witches of Oz gear up to celebrate five years on Broadway…and they’re here to stay!
As seen in HX Magazine, 10/24/08
With Young Frankenstein now playing the Hilton and Shrek headed for the Broadway Theatre in November, the Great White Way has never looked greener. But let us never forget that it all began with one determined young witch named Elphaba—the iconic leading lady of the mega hit musical Wicked and pioneer to all of Broadway’s green freaks. (Sorry...Viridian-American freaks.) On October 30, Wicked will celebrate five years since the bestselling Gregory Maguire novel on which the show is based came to life onstage at the Gershwin Theatre and set in motion an international phenomenon. In addition to two National Tours, Wicked has launched productions all over the world, smashing box office records along the way. In its fifth year, it remains one of the highest-grossing shows on Broadway. While many are out-and-proud “friends of Elphie,” for some, Wicked is a guilty pleasure. But whether you’re a good witch or a bad witch, you know you love it!
It’s no huge shocker that a musical with such archetypal subject matter would have the mass appeal and intergenerational fan base Wicked does. However, it seems everyone has his own personal connection to the show, be it through Stephen Schwartz’s spirited score, the classic characters, or the underlying themes of friendship, tolerance and defiant individuality. “For me, it was simply the music at first,” admits Kerry Ellis, Broadway’s latest Elphaba, who originally replaced Idina Menzel in the London production. “You can’t not fall in love with the music. But there are so many factors to the show’s success—the message, the relationships...It’s amazing how people are drawn to it, and almost have this need to return to it time and time again.”
“It’s a story so full of fantasy, but also of human spirit and the desire to rise above and overcome struggle,” says Kendra Kassebaum, who now plays Glinda. “In the world we live in, we need to see that. We need to know that we can triumph over all that holds us down and shine bright.”
On October 27, Ellis and Kassebaum will both take part in “The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken,” a benefit production held at the Gershwin in which current stars of the show will join Wicked alumni, as well as special guests like recording artist Ashanti and funny ladies Joy Behar and Mario Cantone to perform rare and never-before-seen material from early drafts of the musical. The one-night-only gala will coincide with a number of events celebrating the fifth anniversary. A special release of the Grammy-winning Original Cast Recording on October 28 will feature a new bonus disc loaded with fun extras, including a pop duet of the song “For Good” by LeAnne Rimes and Delta Goodrem.
Of course there will always be skeptics yapping that Wicked is fluff and only fuels the over-commercialism of musical theatre, blah, blah, blah. (You evil show queens know who you are—you sit at Splash on Musical Mondays, sipping your vodka tonics through pursed lips and judging, all squinty-eyed, as the rest of us stand on tables and perform the original choreography to “Defying Gravity.”) To those snooty cynics I say “be gone, before somebody drops a house on you!” The heart and magic of this show, which has bewitched so many, speak for themselves and need no explanation. And no matter which side of the broom you fly on, there’s no disputing that as long as Broadway needs heart and magic, Wicked will always be pop-u-ler...lar.
For details on Wicked’s fifth anniversary log onto wickedthemusical.com.