When it comes to the stories of Oz, one thing has always bothered me. Glinda gives Dorothy the ruby slippers (which were stolen off a dead body), sends a teenage girl off on a long and dangerous journey to see the Wizard, but in the end Dorothy apparently had the power to return home at any time simply by clicking her heels. Is good and wicked relative?
Another example of Glinda's helpfulness can be found in "Wicked." Turns out Glinda and Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) were college roomies before graduating to witch status.
The perky Glinda offers a makeover so that Elphaba can me more "popular." "You really don't need to do this," says the sarcastic Elphaba, "I know," replies Glinda, "that's what makes me so nice!"
Dee Roscioli (Elphaba) is part of the Honolulu cast of “Wicked,” opening Nov. 22 in Honolulu for a limited touring engagement.
A New Musical Inc. photo
If you're unfamiliar with the "Wicked" phenomenon, let me give you a quick update. "Wicked," when you include the cottage industry of t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, calendars, the sound track recording (and the list goes on), will soon become the biggest money-making vehicle in the history of show business, eclipsing "Star Wars," "Star Trek," and "Harry Potter."
According to Hollywood gossip, a movie deal is in the works, and the public can expect a possible 300 million dollar blockbuster to debut approximately in 2015. Just to get a rough idea on "Wicked" sales, the Blaisdell can accommodate over 2,000 people a night. The tickets average about $100 a seat and they'll be doing 71 performances while in Hawaii. Now factor in 10,000 performances over the past nine years and add in the hats.
The premise for the musical began when composer Stephen Schwartz ("Godspell," Pippin"), read Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," while on vacation. That lead Schwartz to persuading Maguire to release the rights for a stage musical while making what Schwartz called an "impassioned plea" to Universal Studios.
The novel takes place many years prior to Dorothy's arrival. Elphaba, a misunderstood, smart, nerdy girl with emerald-green skin grows up to become the notorious Wicked Witch. Galinda, beautiful, blonde and popular becomes Glinda the Good Witch of the North. The book, lyrics, and score for the musical were developed by Schwartz and co-creator Winnie Holzman through a series workshops with Kristin Chenoweth, Schwartz's first choice to play Glinda. Idina Menzel and Joel Grey were added in the roles of Elphaba and the Wizard in 2000. By 2003, the full cast had been assembled and the show made its public debut at The Curran Theater in San Francisco. Although Schwartz took three months to rewrite and tweak the production before opening on Broadway, the production took the theater world by storm almost overnight.
Schwartz, the composer of such hits like "Day By Day" and "Corner of the Sky," had not had a big Broadway success for almost 30 years, but "Wicked," instantly put him back on top. With hits like "Popular," "Defying Gravity," and "For Good," the music of "Wicked" flirted with being the first Broadway songs to crack the Top 40 charts since "Memory" from "Cats" and Schwartz's own "Day by Day," which topped out at #13 in 1972.
The Honolulu cast will feature three "Wicked" veterans, who between them have appeared in multiple productions all over North America for seven years. Patti Murin (Glinda) joined the first national tour in 2005, Dee Roscioli (Elphaba) joined the Chicago production in 2006, and Tom McGowan (the Wizard) has been performing his role since 2009.
I interviewed McGowan ("Frasier," "Everybody Loves Raymond") last week and asked him about being a part of this cultural phenomenon.
"I'm very excited to be coming to Hawaii," said McGowan. "Last year, I was the Wizard in the fourth Broadway cast. I had been doing the tours prior to that, but when I heard the tour was going to Hawaii, I said listen can I go back on tour? I was grateful that the slot opened up and they offered it to me."
McGowan has family in Paia and they'll be coming over to see the Oahu production. In addition to Grey, past Wizards include George Hearn, Ben Vereen, and David Garrison. I asked McGowan what he took away from other Wizards and was there any pressure to fill such big shoes?
"It's a fun part to play, but all the creators and designers encourage the cast to bring their own take to the roles. Some play the Wizard a little devious, some more grandfatherly. I enjoy watching what other actors bring to the role and steal what I like," he joked. "I took over for Joel Grey in the Broadway production of 'Chicago' and now I'm playing the Wizard, so I keep an eye out for what he is doing next as my possible new role."
McGowan has spent most of his career in sitcoms, but like most actors he started in high school musicals and then summer stock after college. " 'Wicked' is only my second Broadway show, 'Chicago' was the first."
He shared with me how he became drawn to "Wicked." "My daughter Mary, who was nine at the time, was watching the Tonys and asked if we could download the sound track. That whole summer long she and a friend began to act out the entire sound track in our backyard, sometimes two performances a day. That helped me fall in love with the show. A year later I auditioned and ended up being involved in the second national tour and the San Francisco production."
I wondered if he had any insight on why the entire world has embraced this musical so fervently. "First of all the music is gorgeous and it has something for everybody. I can't tell you how many times a husband has pulled me aside and said 'my wife drags me to all these shows but this one I like.' The heart of the show is about two girls that forge an unlikely friendship. The message is don't judge a book by its cover."
Being a logistics dork, I wanted to know how they pull off this beyond-massive undertaking from town to town, month after month. "This set is 95 percent of what you will see on Broadway. On the mainland it requires 15 semi trucks to transport it. Between the cast of 33 and the 13 piece orchestra we have a team of about 60 people traveling with the show and we add a local crew of about 100 people to assemble and strike the set. For Hawaii we have to fly it all over. The crew will breakdown a set after our last Sunday show, around midnight, and by five or six in the morning it's all packed up and shipped off 500 or 1000 miles away, reassembled, and ready to go for a performance on Wednesday night. It's a little more complicated for Hawaii, but they have it down."
Ticket availability is sparse at this point, but there are several weekday matinees with open seats. Three additional performances have recently been added, and there are many seats available on Thanksgiving night. The closest Hawaii event I can suggest as the equal to the entertainment spectacle that is "Wicked," would be Michael Jackson's concert in 1984 or Elvis' in 1973.
* Don't miss this opportunity to see Broadway excellence, as the national tour of "Wicked," by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire opens in Honolulu on Nov. 22, for a limited eight-week touring engagement through Jan. 16, 2013. The Oahu production will have eight performances per week at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, Tuesdays through Sundays. Tickets prices range from $52 to $176, with military discounts available. To purchase tickets for call (808) 593-2468 or visit magicspace.net/wicked.
"Driving Miss Daisy" closes this weekend with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Reserved seat tickets are $20 for adults with $15 Kama'aina discount nights (with valid Hawaii ID) tonight, Nov. 15. "Daisy" is appropriate for all ages and runs 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. For reservations or more information call 463-6550 or visit proartspacific.com.
Seabury Hall Middle School presents Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland," under the direction of Marsha Kelly, Friday through Sunday.
Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday in the A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center at Seabury Hall in Makawao. For reservations or more information call 573-1257or buy online at seaburyhall.org.
MAPA presents a staged reading of "8," a new play by Dustin Lance Black about California's Proposition 8 and the fight for gay marriage, Friday and Saturday. Black is the Academy Award winning screenwriter of "Milk."
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 seniors and students. For reservations or more information call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org.
On Thanksgiving weekend, Maui OnStage brings you over the rainbow. Join Dorothy (Marissa Godinez), the Scarecrow (Chris Kepler), the Tin Man (Ricky Jones), the Lion (Chino LaForge) and her little dog too on their adventure off to see "The Wizard of Oz." The production is directed by Alexis Dascoulias, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Don't miss the chance to share this family classic, live on stage, this holiday season.
"The Wizard of Oz," runs November 23 though December 9, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays 3 p.m., with a special December 2 6 p.m. family discount night at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating available, $15 to $28. For tickets or more information call 242-6969 or purchase online at mauionstage.com.