Murney and Kassebaum Fly Out of Broadway's Wicked Oct. 7 with Special Benefit Performance

News   Murney and Kassebaum Fly Out of Broadway's Wicked Oct. 7 with Special Benefit Performance A special benefit performance of Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's Wicked will be presented Oct. 7 at 8 PM at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre. The evening also marks the final performances of current Elphaba, Julia Murney, and Glinda, Kendra Kassebaum.
Julia Murney in Wicked.
Julia Murney in Wicked. Photo by Joan Marcus

The extra performance benefits the New York Restoration Project's Friendship Garden, a community garden located in upper Manhattan that is currently being restored. The garden was designed by Wicked's associate set designer, Edward Pierce, and is located at West 150th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The garden is scheduled to open on Wicked Day, Oct. 28, at a public ceremony hosted by the founder of the New York Restoration Project, Bette Midler.

The Friendship Garden, according to a press statement, "will become a public green oasis in one of New York City's underserved neighborhoods. The garden will feature elements inspired by Wicked including a yellow brick road and likenesses of the musical's characters, as well as flexible space for use by the neighborhood and the New Heights Academy, a charter school adjacent to the garden."

Murney, who played Elphaba in the musical's national tour before arriving on Broadway Jan. 9, recently spoke to Playbill.com about her experience in Wicked and her thoughts about leaving the production.

"I have never done a show for as long as this one," Murney said, "and it's been so wonderful to get to visit with her again — there's always something new to learn. Frankly, it's hard to walk away from being a rock star (albeit a green one). I will hate not seeing everyone at the Gershwin — cast, crew, orchestra, ushers, merch[andising] people, my green team — they are all brilliant and do their jobs wonderfully well, and I have felt very safe with them (and they make me laugh). I will not miss screaming my head off eight times a week (and putting myself through agony everytime I have to miss a show). I will not miss having a green hairline. I'm looking forward to a long nap. If i may, I would like to thank the people that wrote letters and bought my CD and said hi at the stagedoor — it is truly an inspiration to me to be thought of as an inspiration to others. We'll see what's next."

Stephanie J. Block, who played Elphaba in the workshop of Wicked and who also kicked off the national tour, will succeed Murney in the role of the green-faced witch Oct. 9. That day will also welcome a new Glinda: Annaleigh Ashford, who recently made her Broadway debut as Margot in Legally Blonde. The actress also understudied the role of Glinda in the show's national tour. The Wicked company also features Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible, Lenny Wolpe as The Wizard, Sebastian Arcelus as Fiyero, Cristy Candler as Nessarose, Logan Lipton as Boq and Steven Skybell as Dr. Dillamond.

With a score by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, Wicked began previews on Broadway Oct. 8, 2003, after a summer tryout at San Francisco's Curran Theatre.

Based on Gregory Maguire's novel, which turned every Oz myth inside out, Wicked explores the early life of the witches of Oz: Glinda and Elphaba. The two main characters meet at Shiz, a school where both hope to take up sorcery. Glinda is madly popular and Elphaba is, well, green. By a misunderstanding, they wind up roommates and, after an initial period of mutual loathing, begin to learn something about each other. Their life paths continue to intersect through a shared love, entry into the Emerald City and interaction with the Wizard himself. Eventually, their choices and convictions take them on widely different paths.

The Broadway company, directed by Joe Mantello, plays the Gershwin Theatre. Tickets for the benefit performance — priced $150-$500 — are available by calling (212) 307-4100 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.

For more information about the New York Restoration Project, visit www.NYRP.org.

Julia Murney and Kendra Kassebaum end their runs in <i>Wicked</i>.
Julia Murney and Kendra Kassebaum end their runs in Wicked. Photo by Joan Marcus