Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is returning to the Durham Performing Arts Center, in the American Tobacco Historic District, for 24 performances on Jan. 7-11, 13-18, and 20-25. Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Joe Mantello (Take Me Out  and Assassins ), with musical staging by Tony winner Wayne Cilento (The Who’s Tommy ), the show is based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 fantasy novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and features music and lyrics by five-time Tony nominee and multiple Drama Desk Award winner Stephen Schwartz and a book by Drama Desk Award winner Winnie Holzman, who were nominated for the 2004 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical, respectively. (Wicked won three 2004 Tonys — for 2004 Best Actress in a Musical (Idina Menzel as Elphaba), Best Scenic Design (Eugene Lee), and Best Costume Design (Susan Hilferty.)
The Munchkinland Tour of this blockbuster musical boasts “Broadway-caliber production values,” and will star Durham native Laurel Harris as green-skinned, black-garbed misfit schoolgirl Elphaba Thropp, the future Wicked Witch of the West, and Carrie St. Louis as her snobbish and incurably vain beautiful blond schoolmate and enemy-turned-friend Galinda Upland, who will come to be known as Glinda the Good Witch.
“What you will see is another take on the classic Wizard of Oz story,” says John Davidson, who plays the not-so wonderful Wizard of Oz, a dictator who rules the Emerald City with an iron hand. “The audience will find out how the witches came to be …. It’s a fabulous story.”
He adds, “Wicked has been so successful, because it’s a story about the friendship between the witches. One the the witches [Elphaba] is a ‘person of color’ — her color is green — and she has trouble fitting in and being accepted….”
The tour co-stars Kristine Zbornik as the Machiavellian Madame Morrible (rhymes with “horrible”), the haughty and aptly named headmistress of Crage Hall at Shiz University; Michael DeVries as the talking goat Dr. Dillamond, an “intelligent animal” who teaches at Shiz University; Emily Behny as Elphaba’s wheelchair-bound younger sister Nessarose; Ashley Parker Angel as the handsome prince and bon vivant Fiyero, who eventually realizes that deep down Glinda is very shallow and finds himself inexplicably drawn to Elphaba; and Lee Slobotkin as the merry Munchkin lad Boq, who has an enormous (totally unrequited) crush on Glinda.
“This is the strongest cast that I’ve ever seen in Wicked,” claims John Davidson, who is making his second tour appearance as The Wizard. “The actresses playing Elphaba and Glinda are both direct from Broadway. Laurel Harris was the understudy [for Eva Peron] in [2012-13 Broadway Revival of] Evita, and Carrie St. Louis came directly to the show from [playing Sherrie in] Rock of Ages [on Broadway]. Every character in the show is played by a Broadway baby or a veteran.”
Davidson adds, “The music by Stephen Schwartz [Godspell and Pippin] soars and is his best score. Wicked has been called the defining Broadway musical of its decade [by The New York Times]…. I am so proud to be in it.”
In addition to director Joe Mantello and choreographer Wayne Cilento, the Broadway and tour creative team also includes scenic designer Eugene Lee, lighting designer Kenneth Posner, costume designer Susan Hilferty, hair and wig designer Tom Watson, makeup designer Joe Dulude II, sound designer Tony Meola, projection designer Elaine J. McCarthy, and music supervisor/arranger Stephen Oremus. The show also features orchestrations by William David Brohn and music Arrangements by Alex Lacamoire.
Wicked made its Broadway debut on Oct. 30, 2003 at the Gershwin Theatre, where it is still running. Its 4,658 performances through Jan. 4, 2015 make it the 11th-longest-running Broadway musical. Moreover, according to the show’s press kit, “… Wicked’s North American and international companies have cumulatively grossed $3.5 billion and have been seen by over 42 million people worldwide. The musical has played in 13 countries around the world and has been translated into 5 languages.”
“I just love being The Wizard,” admits John Davidson. “It’s a very small part, but they talk about me throughout the show. So, that makes me feel important.”
He adds, “I am 73 years old now, and the part of The Wizard is perfect for me. He’s a showman and a con man. I love being a con man. I’ve done a lot of tours as Harold Hill in The Music Man….”
Born John Hamilton Davidson on Dec. 13, 1941 in Pittsburgh, PA, Davidson grew up in White Plains, NY, where his parents were American Baptist ministers. He had a modeling career in New York City while he was still a student at White Plains High School. Then he earned a BA degree in Theater Arts from Denison University in Granville, OH, where he performed in 30 shows at the Denison Summer Theater.
John Davidson made his Broadway debut in 1964, playing a Clergyman in the 1964 musical Foxy, based on Volpone by Ben Jonson. He won a Theater Guild Award for his performance as Curly in the 1966 Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, and he played Iowa farm-family pater familias Abel Frake in the 1996 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair. Off-Broadway, Davidson starred in High Infidelity (2000) with Morgan Fairchild, and he has played Henry (the old actor) in the Off-Broadway Revival of The Fantasticks. He also recorded 13 albums for Columbia Records.
John Davidson played Angie in his first film, the Disney musical The Happiest Millionaire (1967), opposite Lesley Ann Warren, and co-starred with her again as Joe Carder in the 1968 Disney musical The One and Only, Genuine, Original, Family Band. Davidson played Sally Field’s husband, John Burton, in the 1973-74 television sitcom “The Girl with Something Extra”; and he appeared more than 100 times on “Hollywood Squares.” He also hosted the TV game shows “That’s Incredible,” “The New Hollywood Squares” (1986-89), and “One Hundred Thousand Dollar Pyramid.”
“At my age,” says John Davdson, “I’ve got to find parts for older actors. I’m the oldest one in the show …. The rest of the company is in their 20s.
“I love to play bigger-than-life characters,” says Davidson. “… Small, mousy characters are no fun. I like to tear up the scenery!
“My wife and I are traveling together, and we have our cat with us. It’s a wonderful way to be in show business and see the USA,” says John Davidson.
“It is important to realize that Wicked is family entertainment,” says Davidson. “You can bring your eight-year-old daughter, or you can bring your 80-year-old grandma…. This is the most entertaining show that you can bring your family to.”
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 5th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/localnews/x761901331/-Wicked-star-born-in-Durham (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Dec. 31st Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Kaitlin Gillespie for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/elon-grad-a-part-of-wicked-tour/; Dec. 28th Durham, NC Durham News mini-preview: http://www.thedurhamnews.com/2014/12/28/4433290_triangle-native-stars-in-wicked.html; and Dec. 23rd Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Emily Behny, conducted by Jeffrey Karasarides: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-Emily-Behny-of-WICKED-National-Tour-20141223.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents WICKED: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE WITCHES OF OZ at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8, 8 p.m. Jan. 9, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 10, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13-15, 8 p.m. Jan. 16, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 17, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20-22, 8 p.m. Jan. 23, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 24, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $66.70-$212.10 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/864373.
NOTE: Starting two-and-a-half hours before each performance, the Durham Performing Arts Center will conduct a lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats. The winners will be drawn 30 minutes later, and will be able to buy up to two tickets for just $25 each (cash only). For details of the Wicked ticket lottery, click http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/wicked-announces-lottery-for-25-seats-1.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/wicked-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/402384136568214/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poo7yZcNDmQ.
THE TOUR: http://www.wickedthemusical.com/.
TOUR CAST/CREATIVE: http://www.wickedthemusical.com/cast-creative.
TOUR FAQ: http://www.wickedthemusical.com/faq#tour_faq.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/broadways-biggest-blockbuster-wicked-returns-to-dpac-january-7-25-2015 and http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/wicked-announces-lottery-for-25-seats-1.
2014-15 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2014-15.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
DPAC PARENTAL ADVISORY: “[Wicked is r]ecommended age for children is 8 and up. As a courtesy to our guests, children under the age of 6 will not be permitted in the theater. Please be aware that all guests, regardless of age, must have a ticket. Children must be able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests. As a further courtesy to our guests, DPAC recommends one parent or chaperone for every one child in attendance.”
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900 children’s novel): http://thewizardofoz.info/ (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Website, maintained by Eric Gjovaag) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz (Wikipedia).
The 1900 Children’s Novel: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
L. Frank Baum (novelist, 1856-1919): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Frank_Baum (Wikipedia).
The Wizard of Oz (1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film): http://thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com/ (official website for the 1998 rerelease), (Internet Movie Database), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/852/The-Wizard-of-Oz/ (TCM Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_%281939_film%29 (Wikipedia).
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995 fantasy novel): http://www.harpercollins.com/9780060391447/wicked (HarperCollins Publishers web page), http://gregorymaguire.com/books/wicked.html (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_%28Maguire_novel%29 (Wikipedia).
The 1995 Fantasy Novel: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Gregory Maguire (novelist): http://gregorymaguire.com/ (official website), http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/6173 (HarperCollins Publishers bio), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Maguire (Wikipedia).
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz (2003 Broadway and 2006 West End musical): http://www.wickedthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.musicalschwartz.com/wicked.htm (MusicalSchwartz.com), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=11169 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/Wickedthemusical (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/wicked_musical (Twitter page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_musical (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialWICKED (YouTube page).
Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics): http://www.stephenschwartz.com/ (official website), http://www.musicalschwartz.com/ (official website), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Schwartz_(composer) (Wikipedia).
Winnie Holzman (book): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=107019 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnie_Holzman (Wikipedia).
John Davidson (actor who plays The Wizard): http://www.johndavidson.com/ (official website), http://jhdavidson.tumblr.com/ (his blog), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=93342 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0203384/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/johndavidsontheaterman (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/xgetsthesquare (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Davidson_%28entertainer%29 (Wikipedia).
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz (upcoming film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1262426/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)