Stephen Schwartz, songwriter for such Broadway shows as Wicked, Pippin and The Magic Show as well as animated film musicals including Prince of Egypt and Pocahontas, took time with me on May 2 to talk by telephone about bringing Wicked to Chicago. The complete interview is available on TalkinBroadway.
Here are some excerpts:
JO: How are you involved with the touring company and Chicago sit-down productions of Wicked?
SS: Of course with both companies all of us involved with Wicked were involved with casting the show. For the touring company, Winnie Holzman and I went to Toronto for a week or so right before it opened to work on it and we will do the same with the sit-down company in Chicago, just to make sure that everything is together.
To be perfectly honest, the directing staff on Wicked (and I have to say staff because it goes beyond Joe Mantello and Wayne Cilento now, to their assistants who help put these tours together), they’re so strong that I really feel that we’re in very, very good hands.
The tour when I saw it was fantastic and I have every reason to feel that the sit-down in Chicago will also be an excellent production.
JO: I’m sure it will. I’m sure it will.
I live in Chicago and I know you have some great people in the cast.
SS: You’re in the best theater town in America, so lucky you!
JO: I’ll pass that on to my friends back home. Getting back to the cast, I have to say Rondi Reed (Madame Morrible) is one of my absolute favorites.
SS: She’s great, and we have quite a few Chicago people in the cast.
Of course Ana Gasteyer, who’s playing Elphaba, is originally from Chicago. She’s having a bit of a homecoming.
JO: Are there plans for any other sit-down productions?
SS: Not at all! The Chicago thing sort of happened as a surprise.
We never intended to do that.
And then just the way the business was working out made it seem as if it was a good idea, that there was an audience for it. Of course it remains to be seen if that was the case. I think at this point to have a national tour and two sit-down productions in the States...that’s quite a lot.
Obviously, if something happened where it seemed there ought to be yet another company we wouldn’t say no to that but there are certainly no plans to do that for the time being.
JO: The production costs must be high enough that no one’s going to put together another company without some serious thought before going ahead with it.
SS: When these productions go out, these are not sort of little cut-rate cheapo tours. It is every bit as visually spectacular from a design point of view as the Broadway show. There are certain things that we can’t do on tour that we do on Broadway but then there are other things we ‘re doing on tour that we don’t do on Broadway. So in terms of the spectacle of it it’s kind of a wash.
These are definitely big budget productions and as you say, you have to be smart about it; you can’t be just throwing all these shows out there.
JO: I can tell you there’s a lot of excitement about the sit-down production in Chicago.
SS: I’m delighted to hear it and I think it’s great that so many Chicago performers themselves are going to a part of it with us.