Arts by Dana Oland: Boise gets 'Wicked' again

The musical will sweep into the Morrison Center for an unprecedented run

Boise - The Idaho StatesmanApril 11, 2014 

  • 'WICKED' NATIONAL TOUR COMES TO BOISE:

    Performances:

    ● 7:30 p.m. April 16

    ● 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 17

    ● 8 p.m. April 18

    ● 2 and 8 p.m. April 19

    ● 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 20

    ● 7:30 p.m. April 22-24

    ● 8 p.m. April 25

    ● 2 and 8 p.m. April 26

    ● 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 27

    ● 7:30 p.m. April 29-May 1

    ● 8 p.m. May 2

    ● 2 and 8 p.m. May 3

    ● 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 4

    Where: Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise

    Cost: $55-$150

    Tickets: Boise State Tickets

Gravity and expectations — "Wicked" keeps defying them both on and off the stage.

For instance, who knew it would be such a record-breaking sensation in Boise and return to the Morrison Center just three years after it became the most successful show in the venue's history?

In 2011, it played for 10 days and 16 sold-out shows. Now in its 10th anniversary season, "Wicked" will return to play an unprecedented 24 shows over 19 days - the longest theatrical run of a touring company in Boise history, says Morrison Center executive director James Patrick.

"'Wicked' is unlike any other show in Broadway history," he says. "It is truly a phenomenon. I do not believe there is another Broadway show that could achieve these results. This is certainly a turning point in our market."

"Wicked" opens April 16 and runs through May 4.

In some ways it's not a surprise that "Wicked" could pull off this Boise cultural coup.

Created by producer Marc Platt (known for the films "Legally Blonde," "Wanted") and theater producer David Stone ("Next to Normal," "If/Then"), the show is beloved around the globe, with standing productions on Broadway and in London, Mexico, Tokyo, Seoul, as well as two U.S. tours, Australian and United Kingdom tours currently on the road. It's been translated into Japanese and Spanish, attracts deeply loyal fans and regularly sells out performances - much of which is repeat business.

"Only a handful of musicals in the history of Broadway have crossed the 10-year mark, and that is not only thrilling but extraordinary," Platt says. "It is a testament to the show's ability to burrow into the hearts of its fans."

In many ways Platt, Stone and their team created possibly the perfect commercially successful piece of theater. It tugs the right heartstrings for both women and men and offers copious opportunities to showcase the dynamic talent that Stephen Schwartz's music attracts.

The musical turns "The Wizard of Oz" tale on its ruby-slippered heels and became the defining musical of its decade.

It opened on Broadway in 2003, and immediately critics pegged it as a bloated commercial extravaganza. It won three Tony Awards: for its sets, costumes and Idina Menzel's performance as Elphaba.

If critics found it wanting, the public didn't. A decade later, it has grossed more than $3.3 billion to become one of the top-grossing shows in theater history.

Based on Gregory Maguire's 1995 book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," it's a prequel to L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz," and it causes you to rethink all the characters you thought you knew so well.

We learn that the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch actually were college roommates. When the Green-skinned Elphaba (Laurel Harris) goes to college, she is greeted with disdain by everyone, especially the Good Witch (Kara Lindsay).

As they get caught up in Oz politics and the world of the Wizard (Gene Weygandt), their friendship and magical adventures defy stereotypes and set the stage for a showdown between good, evil and the subtleties in between.

But the real secret of its success is as much Scarecrow as it is Tin Man, Weygandt says.

"It's so smart. Smart all the way around," he says. "It's well-done and put together with intelligence, care and honesty. They created a world and then we live in it and we never violate its rules. And people really respond to that."

Weygandt is a seasoned Chicago-based actor who's played the role in the standing Chicago production for several years, on Broadway and in the national tour.

For him, his character is not the villain of the piece but more of a tragic figure.

"I see him as this erratic driver who is going down the street, completely unaware of the mayhem he leaves in his wake," Weygandt says. "He's in this position he didn't ask for and everyone is telling him he's so wonderful. Who among us has the willpower to resist that?"

Though this is the same touring company that played in Boise in 2011, it will bring many new performers, including Weygandt, Harris and Lindsay. There is a fluidity among the productions, with performers moving in and out of roles.

Christine Dwyer, who was Elphaba in Boise in 2011, is now doing the role on Broadway.

The other thing that's unusual about "Wicked" is that the original creative team still keeps an eye on the show and even keeps tweaking Winnie Holzman's book.

"It's not unusual for Marc or Joe (Mantello, the original director) to check in with the show somewhere," Weygandt says. "Last week they added a new sentence for me. It's a little change but without implication it lays the blame squarely on Elphaba. You might not notice it but it tells the story better."

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