Wicked Flies In To PPAC

wickedThere is so much theater out there that when you come across a show that has that ever lasting endurance, you know you’ve stumbled upon a classic — an iconic play. Wicked is one of those plays. I remember when it first hit Broadway how I desperately wanted tickets (and how they were one of the best Christmas presents ever from my husband)!   My fascination was twofold. One, the Broadway production starred some pretty fantastic people and two, Wicked is another version of The Wizard of Oz, a movie that I have had what some would say an unhealthy obsession with since I was 16 years old. To see the events from the witch’s point of view? Sign me up!  

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I don’t want to give too much away; but let me say this: There are always two sides to every story.  The story begins well before Dorothy Gale from Kansas drops in, and centers around the friendship of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda. And yes, I meant to write friendship. The show is full of those classic type of Broadway showstoppers. And well before Hamilton came along, this was the show that Variety deemed “A Cultural Phenomenon.”  

But what makes a piece of theater iconic or rise to the status of a phenomenon? In a musical, of course, you can point to the songs. Great quotable lines. But above all, it is the characters, and boy does Stephen Schwartz’s musical Wicked have its fair share of iconic characters. Of course there’s Elphaba and Glinda, but then there’s the character that really needs no other name; the Wizard.  It was with this in mind that I sat down to chat with Stuart Zagnit about his role. He’s no stranger to iconic roles as he was the voice of Professor Oak in the popular Pokemon series.  Admittedly, I never understood the Pokemon craze, but it seems as if I’m the absolute only person not to understand the honor it is to play Professor Oak. According to Zagnit, who when he is not on tour with a show does do the Comic Con circuit, grown adults will turn into children around him. “They will say, ‘You were my whole childhood,’” he says with a good-natured laugh.  And although his time with the tour will soon be coming to an end, with Providence as one of his last cities, I’m sure he’ll soon have theatergoers just as excited that he played the Wizard.

This veteran of the stage has over 35 years of experience behind him.  And it all began when he was a child.  “It was a force stronger than me,” he explains. “I had to study theater.” So when a local theater opened in his New Jersey town, he jumped at the chance to take classes, despite the fact that he knew no one who made a living through the arts.  There was, as he put it, “no other place I was going to go.”  

Since embracing his drive for the arts, Zagnit has enjoyed a career many dream of.  He’s been on Broadway six times, including the original Newsies  and Seussical the Musical.  He’s played Tevye in Fiddler, the Baker in Into the Woods.  This is the second time Zagnit has played a role originated by Joel Grey, the first being The Grand Tour, and when I explained I was fortunate to have seen the show on Broadway with the original cast, he was quick to let me know that I would love the tour equally as much.  

If you don’t think you have the money to see the show, this tour will have $25 rush seats.  You have to get to the show two and a half hours early and put your name into the lottery.  It is worth it for the bargain, and if you don’t make it there’s always plenty of other things to do downtown!

Wicked opens September 21 and runs thru October 6. Tickets can be purchased by calling 401-421-ARTS (2787) or by going online to ppacri.org

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