When asked to describe “Wicked” to those who are not familiar with the timeless story and its themes, Jonathan McGill quickly said “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
McGill also went on to say “the show really touches on a lot of real issues that everyone can relate to like love, relationships and politics. There’s so much people can relate to.”
“Wicked is making a much-anticipated return to Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center stage from January 15 through February 9 after a 2011 run that broke box office sales records and sold out in record time. It will play at the Benedum Center as part of the PNC Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh series. Tickets start at $39 and can be purchased by calling 412-456-4800 or visiting www.pgharts.org.
“The show is a cultural phenomenon and it takes another look at the classic ‘The Wizard of Oz,” explained McGill who has been with the show for five years. As an ensemble cast member, he plays numerous roles including a monkey, a student and an angry mob person. “It mixes the familiar with the new and current ideas like friendship, not fitting in and bullying. Those are very current things and that’s why ‘Wicked’ has staying power.”
Although it opened on Broadway more than a decade ago and has gone on to break numerous box office records, “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of the Wizard of Oz” or “Wicked” for short, has continued to tour across America and internationally.
The Broadway company of “Wicked” celebrated its 10th year on the Great White Way in October of 2013, while McGill celebrated his five-year anniversary with the show. He has been a member of the Broadway cast for four years and the touring cast for one year.
“I went to school for dance and ‘Wicked is a challenge for me because every time I step on stage I play a different role. It has allowed me to become comfortable with my voice. I’m very lucky and blessed to be a part of this,” said McGill who hails from and still resides in Los Angeles.
“As artists what we strive for is to reach out and touch people and make them think. This validates the blood, sweat, tears and sore muscles we get. This validates it all,” McGill continued. “The audience loves it and I love being a part of it.”
“Wicked” is based on the 1995 Gregory McGuire novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” The manuscript is a parallel of the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz” and L. Frank Baum’s 1900 classic story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
The musical’s plot begins before and continues after Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from Kansas. It tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch of the North both struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love interest, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government and Elphaba’s fall from grace.
“Elphaba has emerald green skin and is different from others and she is ostracized immediately and people don’t get to know her,” McGill explained. “Her and Glinda’s friendship develops because Glinda can see past the obvious. The show teaches us that who you fall in love with and why you fall in love with them and the challenges you deal with is not always about what’s on the outside.”
With universal themes like that, it’s no wonder “Wicked” has gone on to break sales records and rack up awards throughout the decade.
The show has won more than 50 awards including three Tony Awards and a Grammy Award and six Drama Desk Awards. “Wicked has played more than 4,155 performances making it the 11th longest show in history.
Since its 2003 debut, “Wicked” has broken box office records worldwide and currently holds weekly gross-takings-records in Los Angeles, St. Louis and London and Chicago. During the final week of 2013, the Broadway production shattered the record once more, earning 3.2 million dollars and the North American tour has been seen by more than two million theater goers.
“People save up to see ‘Wicked’ with their families and they deserve to see a great performance,” McGill said. “That can be challenging with traveling and different times zones and things but we work hard to keep to be creative and to keep the show fresh.”
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