DIVA TALK SPECIAL: The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken

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28 Oct 2008

Stephanie J. Block in and out of <I>Wicked</I>
Stephanie J. Block in and out of Wicked
Photo by Joan Marcus (Wicked)

Wicked fans flocked to the Gershwin Theatre Oct. 27 for The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken, a concert celebrating the fifth anniversary of the hit Broadway musical penned by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman.

Buck Henry, the film actor who was last on Broadway in the 2002 revival of Morning's at Seven, opened the evening with a few introductory remarks. Henry jokingly explained his tenuous connection to the musical: As a boy, his mother claimed that his dog Angus had played Toto in "The Wizard of Oz."

"It was one of her many lies," Henry deadpanned.

The actor-writer also explained that Wicked producer David Stone had been influenced by Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and decided that each production of Wicked would help raise funds for a different eco-friendly organization. Wicked's Broadway company had previously donated to the New York Restoration Project, and the proceeds from the Yellow Brick Road Not Taken would also benefit that organization founded by Bette Midler.

Henry then revealed that the evening, which boasted a mix of current and former Wicked stars as well as many not associated with the musical, would feature an early draft of Wicked's first act. In a note in the show's program librettist Holzman wrote, "[Looking through old scripts] was kind of like friends looking their high school yearbook. Only instead of, 'Can you believe we used to wear our hair that way on purpose?!' it was, 'Can you believe we thought the scarecrow should give a press conference?!' or, 'Can you believe we thought she became Governor in Act One?' Looking through those pages, we smiled nostalgically at how innocent and foolish we were, to think that Avaric was a necessary part of the story, or that the father had to die onstage. But what you don't know when you're writing is — everything. That's why you have to write it — to find out what happens."

It was quite interesting to see how much had changed from the 16 scenes presented to the final version of the show that is now a hit around the country and the world. In fact, during the curtain call, composer Schwartz said the evening was a great testament to the adage that "musicals are not so much written as rewritten."


Stephanie J. Block in The Yellow Brick Road Not Taken
photo by Samantha Souza

Yellow Brick Road featured two sets of Glindas and Elphabas. Jennifer Laura Thompson and Stephanie J. Block played those roles for the first eight scenes, while Kate Reinders and Shoshana Bean were, respectively, the curly-locked Glinda and the green-skinned Elphaba for the next eight. Daniel Reichard and Matthew Settle also shared the role of Fiyero with "Ugly Betty" star Mark Indelicato as Boq, "View" co-host Joy Behar as Madame Morrible, Hairspray's George Wendt as the Wizard, Timothy Britten Parker as Dr. Dillamond and Michelle Federer in the role she created, Nessarose.

There were several times throughout the evening that the actors poked fun at the script. During the opening number, Jennifer Laura Thompson's Glinda asked, "Is it true? Is this the way the show really started?" And, following a confusing scene where Elphaba is able to light a crystal and witness a conversation between Boq, Fiyero and Glinda, Joy Behar said, "I don't follow," and Shoshana Bean countered, "I know. That's why this scene was cut." In order to speed up the proceedings, at one point Kate Reinders said, "Well, this part never really changed," and then simply sang the final line of "I'm Not That Girl."


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