'Wicked' Adds OC Actors to the Cast, They Tell Us How They Landed Their Roles

What hasn't been written about “Wicked?” Since opening in New York City in 2003, the show has appeared on four continents and has generated more press than any theater production ever. (Actually, it's hard to prove that, but with the interwebz around, it seems a safe bet…)

 Millions across the globe have packed into scores of theaters to watch this musical version of the Land of Oz as told through the witches' perspectives. (Actually, I'd lasted a decade without seeing it until last night's opening night at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the third time it's been staged in OC).


If you've seen it before, you know what you're getting (although the presence of Dee Roscioli, as the She-Hulk, sorry, Elphaba, the green-skinned, so-called, Wicked Witch of the West, is reason enough to see this production; she flat-out rocks out with her pointy hat out). The revisionist take on the history of the mythological Oz remains the same, as does the rather generic score and all the visual bells and whistles that entertain everyone from 5-year-olds to those who grew up on the film.
If you haven't seen it, and you're a fan of L.Frank Baum's world, or just want to check your brain for a couple of hours and trip out on the visual spectacle, you won't be disappointed.  Unless you hate all things musical. In which case, you've long stopped reading.
One interesting aspect about this national tour, which began in San Francisco before moving to Costa Mesa, is the presence of three home-grown products in the ensemble: Napoleon W. Gladley (a Chapman University graduate);  Brenda Hamilton (who attended El Toro High School and whose first professional gig was dancing in Disneyland's “Hercules” parade);  and Michael Mahaney (an El Modena High School grad). 
A legitimate review of this show would be redundant. You're either the kind of person who is on the Wicked bus or you're not . I'm really not, as I view most musical blockbusters as more of a crime against humanity than serious art (thank you, Dr. Jonathan Taylor for that one…). But I can still stay I was surprisingly entertained by the story and blown away by the vocal talent, particularly whenever Roscioli opened her throat or when Cassie Okenka (filling in for Glinda last night for Patti Murin, who had the flu) flittered and twittered across the stage.
So instead preaching to, or pissing off, the converted, what about hearing from three OC peeps who are living a dream by performing in it?
OC Weekly: I'm assuming you'd heard about this show before performing in it, but have you learned anything different about it from the experience?
Michael Mahaney: “I've been familiar with Wicked for many years, but it wasn't until I was a part of the show that I truly understood how big it was and the kind of effect it has on people. The story is relatable to so many people, I mean, who hasn't felt different at one point or another? It also speaks on many educational levels, dealing with childhood issues such as being new or different at school, to sociopolitical issues like bullying and segregation. 

What was the key step, or break, that helped you land a role in a national tour of such a popular musical?
Brenda Hamilton: “I think all the training I had been through helped me get into Wicked, but building friendships in this business is also helpful in booking any show.”
Mahaney:  “I've had a  lot of wonderful people help me along the way (family, high school mentors, teachers) but I tend to think that as artists we are always maturing and learning…I guess it was a combination of always looking to further my craft, feeling confident in my abilities and just showing up…But I certainly wouldn't discount maybe just a LARGE bit of luck.
 What advice would you give to other thespians about how to land a role in a show that actually pays something?
Napoleon W. Gladney: “Always be yourself and know that there is the right opportunity for everyone, either large or small…Keep showing up and the job that is right will present itself. Also, comparing your work or success to others is not a great way to live.”
Mahaney: “If you want to be a professional actor, like really, really, want to be a professional actor and there's nothing else that you'd be happy doing, then you'll figure out to make it happen. There's always a place in this business for talented and passionate people, and you might be surprised to find it may be in a different facet of the business than you originally thought. My best advice: go to drama school, and audition persistently and (be prepared).”

Wicked, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa (714) 556-2787. Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m. Thru March 17. $44.50-$124.50 A lottery of $25 tickets takes place daily; show up two-and-a-half hours early, drop your name in a drum and the winners are called 30 minutes before performances. www.scfta.org.

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