Inside the Emerald City: Wicked's Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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10 Oct 2013

Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's international hit musical Wicked, which takes audiences to Oz before L. Frank Baum's famous tale of Dorothy begins, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Broadway Oct. 30 at the Gershwin Theatre.

To mark the Broadway milestone, Playbill.com is looking back at the magical and mysterious characters who inhabit the untold tale of the witches of Oz and a selection of the actors who have filled their shoes. Each week Playbill.com will highlight a different leading character from the hit musical. (Read more about Wicked's 10th anniversary here.)

Last week Playbill.com highlighted actresses who played Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Shiz.

This week we look at the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Click through for a tour of Oz's Wicked inhabitants:

Joel Grey
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award winner Joel Grey originated the role of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the 2003 Broadway production of Wicked. It should be noted that Tony Award winner Robert Morse originally played the Wizard in Wicked's pre-Broadway premiere in San Francisco, but opted not to continue with the production when it transferred to Broadway. Grey, who had been approached to play the role when Wicked was in development, later became available and joined the cast during New York rehearsals prior to the start of Broadway performances in October of 2003. Grey won the 1967 Tony Award for creating the role of the Emcee in Cabaret and has been Tony-nominated for George M!, Goodtime Charley, The Grand Tour and for co-direction on the Tony-winning revival of The Normal Heart.

George Hearn
Photo by Joan Marcus

George Hearn succeeded Joel Grey as Broadway's Wizard in July 2004. Hearn won Tony Awards for his performances in La Cage aux Folles and Sunset Boulevard and was also nominated for his work in Watch on the Rhine, A Doll's Life and Putting It Together. Hearn's other Broadway credits include Meet Me in St. Louis; Ghetto; Ah, Wilderness!; Whodunnit; I Remember Mama; Sweeney Todd: An Almost Perfect Person; Hamlet; The Changing Room; 1776; and A Time for Singing.

Tony Award winner Ben Vereen, who originated the role of the Leading Player to Tony Award-winning acclaim in Stephen Schwartz's Pippin, took over as Broadway's Wizard in 2005. He also played the role in the Chicago production. Vereen made his Broadway debut as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, earning a Tony Award nomination for his performance. He nabbed the Tony for his work in Bob Fosse's production of Stephen Schwartz's Pippin (singing "Magic to Do") and has also starred on Broadway in Grind, Jelly's Last Jam and Fosse. The recent revival of I'm Not Rappaport marked Vereen's non-musical Broadway debut. Vereen was nominated for Emmy Awards for his performances in "Roots," "Intruders" and 1976's "The Bell Telephone Jubilee." He also received Golden Globe nominations for his work in "Funny Lady" and "Ellis Island."

Rue McClanahan and Ben Vereen
photo by Joan Marcus



David Garrison
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award nominee David Garrison, well known for his television appearances in "Murphy Brown" and "Married With Children," took over as the Wizard in spring 2006. Garrison was last seen on Broadway in the 2001 revival of Bells Are Ringing. He received a Tony nomination for his role in A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, and his other theatrical credits include Titanic, The Pirates of Penzance, Torch Song Trilogy, I Do! I Do!, Randy Newman's Faust, Merrily We Roll Along and You Never Know. His television credits are numerous and include "Murphy Brown," "Murder, She Wrote," "Married with Children," "L.A. Law" and "Law & Order."

Lee Wilkof

Lee Wilkof, who originated the role of Seymour in the Off-Broadway premiere of Little Shop of Horrors, joined the first national tour of Wicked as the Wizard in 2007. Wilkof was nominated for a Tony Award for his comical gangster in Kiss Me, Kate. Wilkof was also part of the Goodman Theatre revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh starring Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy. The production is aiming to arrive at the Brooklyn Academy of Music next year. His Broadway credits include Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Odd Couple, Democracy, She Loves Me, Sweet Charity and The Boys from Syracuse.

John Davidson
Photo by Joan Marcus

John Davidson joined the first national tour of Wicked as the Wizard in April 2013. Veteran stage and screen actor Davidson appeared as the Boy in the 1964 television presentation of The Fantasticks and recently appeared as Henry, The Old Actor and as Bellamy in 2011 and 2012 Off-Broadway. His credits also include State Fair, Oklahoma!, "The Happiest Millionaire" and "Hollywood Squares."

John Rubinstein

Tony Award winner John Rubinstein, another veteran of Stephen Schwartz's Pippin, originated the role of the Wizard in the 2007 Los Angeles cast of Wicked. Rubenstein made his Broadway debut in Pippin and received a Tony Award for his work in Children of a Lesser God. His other Main Stem credits include Fools, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Hurlyburly, M. Butterfly, Love Letters, Getting Away with Murder and Ragtime.

Mark Jacoby
Photo by Joan Marcus

Mark Jacoby, a Tony Award nominee for the 1995 Harold Prince revival of Show Boat, took over as first national tour's Wizard in 2011. He recently starred in the world-premiere musical Secondhand Lions at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. He has been seen on Broadway in Elf, Sweeney Todd, Man of La Mancha, Ragtime, Show Boat, Grand Hotel, The Phantom of the Opera and Sweet Charity.

Richard Kline

Richard Kline, best known as Larry on the classic sitcom "Three’s Company," starred as the Wizard from 2009-11 on the first national tour of Wicked. He was recently announced to star as Liberace in the new musical All That Glitters, which is hoping for a 2014-15 Broadway arrival. His credits also include the Broadway productions of November, City of Angels and on tour in Do I Hear a Waltz?, Oliver! and Jake's Women.

Lenny Wolpe
Photo by Joan Marcus

Lenny Wolpe, who played the Wizard in the original workshops of Wicked, stepped into the Broadway cast in 2007. He will play Julian Marx in the upcoming Broadway musical adaptation of Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. Wolpe has also appeared on Broadway in The Drowsy Chaperone, The Sound of Music, Copperfield, Into the Light and Onward Victoria. Other credits include Mayor, Brownstone, Company, The Wonder Years and the national tours of Little Shop of Horrors, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, South Pacific. He played opposite Betty Buckley in Gypsy and has filled the role of Tevye in six productions of Fiddler on the Roof.

Tom McGowan
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award nominee Tom McGowan is Broadway's current Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He created the role of Valere in the original Broadway production of La Bete (Tony nomination) and has also appeared as Amos Hart in Chicago and in the 1997 production of Ivanov. His films include "The Birdcage" and "Sleepless in Seattle."