Like most gay kids, I spent many of my younger years searching for a glimpse of a fantasy that could take me away from the confusion of being different than most of my friends, family, and schoolmates. Even though I couldn’t really put my finger on it, I knew there was just something a little different about me. While all the other boys were outside playing with their GI Joes and building forts, I was obsessed with He-Man’s massively seductive bulges and…
Like most gay kids, I spent many of my younger years searching for a glimpse of a fantasy that could take me away from the confusion of being different than most of my friends, family, and schoolmates. Even though I couldn’t really put my finger on it, I knew there was just something a little different about me. While all the other boys were outside playing with their GI Joes and building forts, I was obsessed with He-Man’s massively seductive bulges and stealing my sister’s She-Ra doll.
Let’s just face it, I was a little gay boy waiting to come out and turn into the big queen I was destined to be. Along the way, I discovered a movie that was more than just another story of a group of misfits, trying to make it in a world that rejected them. To me, The Wizard of Oz was my story, and I was Dorothy. (I told you I was always a big queen.) Every thunderstorm sent me into a frenzy, hoping that my house would get sucked up in a tornado and I would eventually find myself in the wonderful Land of Oz.
As I grew up, I realized that the possibility of me actually visiting Oz was about as likely as a weekend escape with my childhood man crush, He-Man. But that never stopped my love affair with Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow and their amazing journey to find themselves.
So when author Gregory Maguire wrote and released the back-story to the Wizard of Oz in 1995, I immediately hauled myself to the bookstore to snag a copy. I just had to find out what made the Wicked Witch of the West so wicked and how the Land of Oz came to be. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one: Wicked became so popular that in October of 2003 it was turned into one of the most successful Broadway shows in history.
Wicked the musical took Gregory Maguire’s magical story of the Land of Oz, the humble beginnings of the Wicked Witch of the West, also known as Elphaba, Glinda the Good, and many of the original characters from the Wizard of Oz and turned it into a riveting, food for the soul experience that has continued to wow audiences around the world.
In fact since its premiere, Wicked has received over 35 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards. The Washington Post says, “ Wicked has ‘cast quite a spell’ throughout North America, breaking box office records in every city that it has played, including Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.” And that is just naming a few.
On Wednesday, January 30th Wicked will return to South Florida once again at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and run through Sunday, February 17th. I couldn’t be more excited to see some of my favorite characters in action, singing a few of my favorite Broadway numbers, including Defying Gravity, which is when Elphaba finally discovers how to fly!
Of course a show based on the Land of Oz is surely going to have a few gay cast members, and I was lucky enough to sit down with Jay Russell to get the inside scoop on the show and what we can all expect during its return to South Florida.
Jay plays Dr. Dillamond in Wicked and was more than happy to share his experience and thoughts with us at Hot Spots Magazine.
How did you get involved with the show Wicked?
I saw it on Broadway with the original cast and loved it. Never in a million years did I imagine I’d ever be in it. Then an audition came up for Dr. Dillamond and suddenly here I am touring the country as a Goat. Who knew?!
As a gay man, how can you relate to the story of Elphaba?
Well, certainly the main idea of Elphaba being “different” from everyone else and the prejudice and teasing she has to endure. In Elphaba’s case the color of her skin makes her different. As a gay man, it is more of an internal struggle, but I certainly was dealt my share of taunting and teasing as a kid in school.
What is the message most people walk away with after seeing the show?
I think people really respond to the incredible friendship portrayed by Elphaba and Glinda in Wicked. It’s rare to see such an interesting and complex friendship between two women onstage. The other aspect I think that spoke to me is about questioning authority and not taking what our leaders tell us at face value, about really standing up for what is right.
Why do you think Wicked has been an amazing success over the years?
So many reasons: First off, it is a great story – funny, moving, powerful, and clever as hell. Add to that the really amazing tuneful score that Stephen Schwartz wrote for it, I mean, I’m in it eight times a week and I still am singing the songs on my time off. Then add, a truly magical production that literally defies gravity and you’ve really got it all.
Do you think Wicked has been more popular among the gay community? If so, why?
Tough one… We do love our divas and we’ve got two of them in Elphaba and Glinda that’s for sure. It doesn’t hurt that the original ladies, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, went on to such great success after Wicked on both stage and screen. Also, our leading man sure isn’t hard on the eyes.
Wicked has been to South Florida before. What can people expect from this cast that they may not have ever seen before?
I may be biased but I think our cast is extraordinary, and whether you have seen the show before or not, you will truly be blown away. Our Elphaba (Christine Dwyer) and our Glinda (Jeanna De Waal) are beyond compare… really our entire company from top to bottom is top notch. And, just between you and me, we have the hunkiest chorus boys I have ever had the pleasure to work with!
Wicked the Musical
Wednesday, January 30th to Sunday, February 17th
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
201 SW 5 AVE
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312