‘Wicked’ casts its spell on Philly’s last days of summer

‘Wicked’ casts its spell on Philly’s last days of summer

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The blockbuster musical “Wicked” is making a triumphant return to Philly to end the summer theater season with its witchy magic through Aug. 27.

Based on Gregory Maguire’s bestselling fantasy novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” the story follows the unlikely friendship between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good Witch from the “Wizard of Oz” in the years leading up to Dorothy’s arrival in Oz.

Since its 2003 debut, the show has broken box-office records around the world and is Broadway’s second-highest-grossing production.  

Ensemble cast member Chase Madigan, who plays Chistery, the head of Elphaba’s army of flying moneys, among other background characters, said the deft exploration of social issues and the nature of good and evil in “Wicked” are among the many reasons it has remained popular for so long.

“The themes of ‘Wicked’ really resonate with people of all ages,” he said. “It’s just so relatable on so many levels. It’s a story that we’re all familiar with. People just really love it. That’s why it’s never gone out of style.”

Madigan said that fan reaction to the flying monkeys has been polarizing, even from one of his biggest fans.

“The kids either love the monkeys or they hate them,” he said. “We wear these masks with this wire hair. My mom actually hates when I put it on because she thinks I look scary. But some of the kids like the monkeys. It’s funny to see the people’s different reactions to the monkeys.”

The immense popularity of “Wicked” and the complexity of pulling off such a visually arresting show with a frenetic pace night after night means the cast is always changing actors and constantly on the move.

But Madigan said they still manage to have a lot of fun with the performances.  

“We do eight shows a week and, yes, we get tired,” he said. “But when I think about seeing the show for the first time when I was 14 or 15 and how much I loved it, when I think about that kid in the audience, I can’t be tired. All of our principal actors do an amazing job and the show itself is so smart and written so well that when someone new steps in, it just gives it new life. That’s what’s cool about how long the show has lasted; the cast is always changing. Every time we get a new person, it breathes new life into the show, which gives us a little bit of a change.”

Madigan said the participants in this year’s touring cast got the added pleasure of meeting the author of the book that inspired the stage play.

“Gregory Maguire just saw the show here in Boston, which is really cool,” he said. “He came and saw us backstage. Obviously it wasn’t his first time seeing it. He was really complimentary and he seemed to really enjoy our performance, which was really cool.”

“Wicked” runs through Aug. 27 at Kimmel’s Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, call 215-893-1999.


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