Wicked Takes the Schuster Center by Storm
By Brian Sharp
Dayton gets the pleasure once again of experiencing Wicked – the untold story of the witches of Oz. The Schuster Center will host this amazing piece of musical theatre for the next four weeks. The popularity of this musical is nearly cult-like. There are people who will not miss the show anytime it is near. Some fans can recite every word – sing every song. Certainly these witches are still defying gravity with the success that can be felt by the sell-out crowds. This is the kind of show that lives on and on.
The centerpiece of the story is the relationship between the beautiful Galinda – who becomes Glinda (the Good Witch) and the unpopular Elphaba. While the cast is plentiful there are plenty of other sights to see with the sets and costumes. This is no low budget show. You know it’s going to be a great night when the audience starts applauding when the house lights go out…which is what happened the last time Wicked hit the stage in Dayton. This is a hit…and a hit that you don’t want to miss. This is the second time this amazing musical will grace the Dayton stage.
Dayton loves Wicked…and why shouldn’t we? This show delivers everything that a big Broadway musical should deliver. A breathtaking performance, a feel-good story, music that won’t leave your head – full of emotion, and characters that weave a familiar story into a new dimension – CHECK!
The tour that opened at the Buell last week makes good on all of it. What stands out in this particular show, however, is the friendship between the rivals-turned-BFFs — the gifted green-girl Elphaba and the perky-in-pink Glinda . The musical is based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire, a book that cleverly imagines the back story leading up to a tornado that sends Dorothy on a trip from Kansas to Oz. It begins as Elphaba and Glinda meet for the first time in school, where they’re taught by Doctor Dillamonde, a goat. Animals can talk in the world of Wicked, but that ability is being threatened by the powers that be, who claim the animals are a threat to the natural order of things.
When Elphaba and Glinda head for the Emerald City to advocate for the animals in front of the Wizard, they’re faced with difficult choices. The story is rich and multi-layered, filled with truths about the nature of political power and mass manipulation. There’s romance too, as both Elphaba and Glinda fall for the same dashing man, Fiyero (played by Billy Harrigan-Tighe). But at the heart of the play, and the aspect that really shines in this version, is the relationship between the two young women who will go on to be characters in “The Wizard of Oz” story.
I had the opportunity to speak with Billy Harrigan-Tighe about his role, Fiyero, and what brought him there. Harrigan-Tighe grew up in Marietta, Georgia and went to a performing arts High School. After High School he attended University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music – majoring in musical theatre. He has worked pretty consistently since graduating from the University. His first big role after graduation came from the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in the production of Happy Days. From there he went on to a role in Dirty Dancing and then into an understudy role for the part of Fiyero in Wicked. He left Wicked to take on the role of Jean- Michel in the touring company of La Cage Aux Folles. While touring with La Cage, Harrigan-Tighe received the call regarding auditions for Fiyero in Wicked. The rest is history. He auditioned and received the role – in which you will see him in Dayton. Harrigan-Tighe has fond memories of the area. Certainly his experience at CCM was one of great accountability and he says “I learned as much from the instructors as I did from my peers – it’s a very talented group.” He also says “Having CCM on my resume is like a badge of honor.” Coming back to the area is like a mini homecoming for Harrigan-Tighe – he has performed at LaComedia, and has enjoyed shows at Wright State University and The Human Race Theatre Company. He says that while he is here he hopes to get back to Cincinnati…and maybe even enjoy a day at Kings Island.
This is a powerhouse show…with a powerhouse cast. It’s not often that a musical has two powerhouse roles as great as Elphaba and Glinda. Idina Menzel won the Tony Award for her turn as Elphaba, and her version of Glinda in the original Broadway Wicked made Kristin Chenoweth a star.
Together, the pair weathers the storms in their relationship and “end up being changed for the better,” indeed.
Even for someone who’s seen the show before, the musical’s other impressive aspects remain. The show’s amazing sets and lighting transport us to a magical world, and Stephen Schwartz’s score is finely delivered.
But it’s the unlikely friendship that is born and endures that really makes this version sing. You don’t want to miss this show!
(Wicked runs May 30, 2012 through June 24, 2012 at The Schuster Center. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketcenterstage.com or by calling 937-228-3630)
Reach DCP theatre critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com