'Wicked' soars into the Peace Center
February 4, 2015
Paul Hyde, [email protected] 1:24 p.m. EST January 28, 2015
Elphaba, the feisty green witch of the musical "Wicked," not only has to sing and dance like most Broadway characters.
She has to take flight, too, soaring high above the stage.
It's not a role for an actress who has a fear of heights.
Just ask Alyssa Fox, who'll play Elphaba in the national tour of "Wicked" coming to Greenville.
"It would be kind of difficult to be Elphaba if you had a fear of flying, considering you're going to be doing it every night," Fox said, with a laugh.
"It's a wonderful moment in the show. You can hear and feel the audience go 'Ahhhhhhh!'"
The Tony Award-winning "Wicked" opens Wednesday at the Peace Center for a three-week run through Feb. 15.
"Flying has never been a problem for me," Fox said. "What's hard to get used to issinging while flying. You're trying to keep your breath and hold your note and remember everything else while you're moving up through the air."
Stephen Schwartz's "Wicked" is an alternative telling of the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz," centering on the relationship of Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the supposedly Wicked Witch of the West.
With a book by Winnie Holzman, the story follows the two unlikely friends as they struggle through personal differences and their rivalry over the same love-interest.
"It's really the story of two females and their friendship," said Carrie St. Louis, who is playing Glinda the Good. "That's pretty rare for a musical."
The blockbuster show is one of the highest-grossing musicals in history, much-loved for Schwartz's musical score of power ballads and Broadway showstoppers.
"Wicked" was a huge hit with theater-goers when it came to the Peace Center five years ago. Expecting a similar reception this time, the Peace Center has scheduled 24 performances.
The production, with a cast of 30, features veteran entertainer John Davidson in the role of the Wizard.
Making her debut
Fox will be making her debut in the role of Elphaba in Greenville. She's already performed the role several times as an understudy and standby.
Recently, she was elevated to the tour's full-time Elphaba.
"It's very exciting for me to able to play the role full-time," said Fox, who is originally from Garland, Texas, near Dallas. "From the beginning, this is what I've wanted to do."
In the show, Elphaba is strong and determined but, because of her appearance, misunderstood and hated by the townfolk.
At the same time, her status as an outcast and underdog invariably wins the sympathy of the audience, Fox said.
"A lot of us have experienced being different, of being on the outside," Fox said. "I think that's what many people in the audience relate to. It's exciting to be able to connect with the audience on that level."
Glinda the Good, meanwhile, enters the story as a conceited young girl but changes dramatically, thanks to her friendship with Elphaba.
"She's so naive at the beginning, living in her own world," St. Louis said. "She has to find her own strength."
Glinda also has an irrepressible spirit, particularly in the song "Popular," when she's trying to instruct Elphaba on how to attract the attention of boys, St. Louis said.
"She's so full of life and energy," said St. Louis, who joined the national "Wicked" tour two months ago after a stint in Broadway's "Rock of Ages."
The show appeals to all ages, although teenage girls appear to be a particularly devoted cohort, thanks to the story's depiction of friendship and theme of female empowerment.
"Girls in particular can relate to their friendship and the arguments Elphaba and Glinda have," Fox said. "It's two completely opposite girls finding common ground and enjoying a friendship that spans the rest of their lives."
Fox was the understudy for Elphaba in a 2010 production in San Francisco and has served as a standby for the role in the national tour since 2012.
Not easy being green
Another unique requirement of the role of Elphaba, of course, is to become green every night. The makeup only takes about 20 minutes to apply, Fox said.
The problem is getting the makeup off at the end of the show.
"You never get completely out of the makeup," Fox said. "It's always in your hairline and in your ears for a few days afterward. Every morning, I wake up and my pillow has a green tint to it."
"Wicked" is the 11th longest-running musical on Broadway and it shows no sign of slowing down.
There are actually two professional productions of "Wicked" touring North America, as well as six other productions throughout the world. "Wicked" has been performed in more than 100 cities in 13 countries and has been seen by more than 44 million people.
What's to account for the phenomenal popularity of the show?
"It's the whole package," St. Louis said. "The music is amazing, the costumes are brilliant. There are so many moments that take your breath away."
Discount ticket lottery: The Peace Center will offer a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats. Two and one-half hours prior to each performance, theater-goers can have their names placed in a lottery drum. Thirty minutes later, names will be drawn for orchestra seats at $25 each, cash only. The lottery is available only in-person at the box office, with a limit of two tickets per person.
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