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'Wicked' good: Broadway hit musical returns to Gammage

February 13, 2012

Returning to ASU Gammage Feb. 15 for a one-month engagement, the hit musical "Wicked" is the Broadway adaptation of a revisionist look at the children's book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and the classic American film "The Wizard of Oz." And while there may not be a Kansas twister in this tale about the Land of Oz, there certainly is no dearth of twists.

Wicked tells the story of how Glinda from the North – pretty and popular – became "good" and Elphaba from the West – fiery and misunderstood – became "wicked." Why these two women became opposite one another in popular memory is a question that drives the show, serving up several satisfying plot twists and illustrating another magical side of Oz we've never seen before.

Before "Dorothy Gale" – and her little dog, too – dropped into Oz, much had happened within the community of munchkins, wizards and witches, according to Gregory Macguire's 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," on which the musical is based. There were political factions and social upheavals, the novel reveals, and the witches had not yet grown up and found their own way. 

Writer Winnie Holzman – of such acclaimed television programs as “My So-Called Life” and “thirtysomething" – and lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz's musical adaptation of Maguire's book has launched this pre-Dorothy story into pop culture fame. Wicked has broken nearly every box office record since its 2003 debut, and when it last played at Gammage Auditorium in 2009 the show sold out in record time.

Back by popular demand, the show has become a special treat for its nationally touring cast that performs each night, says castmember Justin Brill.

"You feel so fortunate as an actor to be part of something so successful that has such a loyal following," said Brill, who has worked consistently in theatre for more than a decade. "As an actor, it's a special treat to have sold-out audiences and lots of energy surrounding the performances."

In the show, Brill performs the role of "Boq," the only munchkin to attend university. While at school, Boq becomes entangled in a love triangle between Glinda and Elphaba, the two soon-to-be witches.

"Boq is very optimistic," Brill says of his character. "He wears his heart on his sleeve, is a hopefuly guy, and makes choices based on his feelings. He means well, and he does some crazy things in the name of love."

Brill, who is lucky enough to tour with his wife, says he looks forward to the start of every performance.

"One of my favorite moments is the pre-show announcement when the lights go down and you feel the murmur, and sometimes the audience applauds, and then finally the downbeat of the orchestra," Brill said. "You can feel that energy and love for the show. It's a very exciting moment."

At the core of the show is a story about friendship and identity – the process of figuring out what and who to believe and what is in your heart, Brill says.

"Today, we are fed so much information that it is really hard to figure out what to believe," Brill said. "News is gearing toward entertainment. It's hard to figure out who to trust. What I really like about the show is that it reminds you that it's important to look within yourself and decide for yourself, and carry that forward."

For more information on Wicked, visit To learn more about Brill, visit

To catch a performance of Wicked, Feb. 15 through March 11, at ASU Gammage, on the Tempe campus, visit the Gammage Box Office or call 480-965-3434.