Behind The Scenes Of Broadway's Blockbuster 'Wicked'

By: Caroline Vandergriff Email
By: Caroline Vandergriff Email

The Broadway tour of "Wicked" kicks off another week of performances at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, and the cast and crew invited News 10 backstage for a behind-the-scenes tour.

It's a Broadway blockbuster, and it's been entertaining audiences across the country for eight years. "Wicked" tells the story of what happens in Oz, long before Dorothy and Toto drop in.

"It's a story about friendship, if you just strip it down the bare bones," said Matthew Leiner, the first assistant stage manager. "It's two childhood friends who clashed at first, and are now best friends."

Best friends pulled apart by a wizard who is far from wonderful, and a common love interest - Fiyero - played by actor Billy Harrigan Tighe.

"I would describe Fiyero as a scandalous playboy who is trapped in a love triangle between two very powerful women," said Tighe. "I love playing the character arc of Fiyero. He goes from an easy going prince to a really strong character who has strong ideas of what he believes in."

The musical follows Elphaba, the outcast with emerald green skin, and Galinda the Good For actress Jeanna Dewaal, the role of Galinda is a dream come true.

"I mean I've been a fan of 'Wicked' since I was a teenager," said Dewaal. "Me and my sister are both actors, so in England we got the cast recording of 'Wicked' and obsessed over it, of course, as musical theater teenage girls do. So to be in this is surreal and amazing."

In the show, Galinda travels by magic bubble - and offered to let News 10's Caroline Vandergriff take a ride, 32 feet into the air.

Dewaal's advice: "You'll be strapped in. You can't fall out. Enjoy it!"

It's the way Galinda makes her very first entrance in the show, and it's one of the many production elements that really make this show what it is. Combined with the singing and dancing, the elaborate costumes, the lighting, and the set pieces, all help create this magic world of Oz.

And to make sure things run smoothly in Oz, it takes as much choreography behind-the-scenes as it does onstage. The crew spends two and half days in each theater setting up shop.

"There are challenges that go along with every single city, but the actual blueprint is always the same," said Leiner. "That's for safety reasons. If you're not in the right spot, you could get mowed down by a set piece or an Oz head or something like that."

The tour travels for 52 weeks a year, taking 11 semi-trucks worth of stuff from city to city. It will take crews about seven hours to pack everything up when the run here is over. But before they do that, they still have eight more performances at the Wharton Center. For ticket information, call the Wharton Center Box Office at 1-800-WHARTON, or (517) 432-2000.

"We keep touring with this show because I think it's just so important for people to have that experience," said company manager Erica Norgaard. "If you can't make it to New York, if you can't make it to Chicago, we bring it everywhere."


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