At 7 PM on Oct. 30 — the evening before Halloween — the mechanical dragon atop the proscenium of the Gershwin Theatre began to stir, and audiences were taken to the magical Land of Oz, where two witches (one green; one popular) would relive their childhoods for the 4,157th time.
The enthusiasm at the tenth anniversary performance of Wicked was palpable, as Glinda (a vibrant Alli Mauzey) descended from her bubble — to rapturous applause — and greeted both the citizens of Oz and the packed house, filled with fans, family, friends and Wicked alum, at the Gershwin. "No One Mourns the Wicked," the opening number of the Tony-nominated Best Musical, was also met with cheers.
"I had a moment where I [thought], 'We might be here all night if they keep applauding,' but I also thought, 'If we go past union [time constraints for the] musicians, this can be a problem,'" Mauzey told Playbill.com. "So I knew I had to move on at some point, but the audience just didn't want to stop applauding [at] the notes and the chords and the word 'Wicked.'"
"I think when Kristen Gorski [-Wergeles], the Witch's Mother who has been in [the cast] since the beginning, got her entrance applause, that was a special moment for everyone on stage — so thankful that she was getting the gratitude that she deserved," said Michael Wartella, the show's Boq, currently making his Broadway debut. "To see that kind of appreciation coming back from the fans was unbelievable. I feel like a lot of us weren't nervous when we started, and then that happened, and we were like, 'Oh, we've got to put on a good show.'" One person in the cast who was a bit nervous before Wicked's big night was the show's leading lady, Lindsay Mendez.
"I was so nervous, just because I knew there were so many people who have done the show in the audience and [who] had been a part of it and touched by it," admitted Mendez. "I just wanted to deliver for them and give them a nostalgic experience [as well as] a new experience, so I was really nervous."
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Before Mendez burst onto the stage for her arrival at Shiz University, she thought, "Let me get through this." She said, "I was more nervous tonight than I was my first night. It's a big night for Wicked, and I just wanted to be present and be part of it. I thought, 'Let me have fun. Let me feel the boost of the crowd,' and God, I did. The second I walked out there was crazy."
Entrance applause continued throughout the evening, with each principal — including the green baby in the opening number — receiving cheers from the crowd, and although Mendez claimed nerves played a part in her performance, her voice soared on her first number, "The Wizard and I."
"It wasn't until 'Defying Gravity' started," she added, "that I thought, 'Wow!' This is so freakin' cool, and I cannot believe I get to be this person. I feel so grateful tonight that I got to do this." Her final note in the show-stopping "Defying Gravity" — seconds before a blackout brought the first act to a close — was met with a standing ovation.
Mendez's co-star (and good friend) Derek Klena, another cast member making his Broadway debut in Wicked, admitted to feeling "a rush of emotions." At the show's after party — held at the Edison Ballroom on 47th Street — he said, "I've seen the show multiple times before I came in, so to actually play this role and be amongst everybody who I've seen do it before is kind of amazing and terrifying at the same time. It was the very first Broadway show I saw. I still can't believe it. This whole cast and family is so amazing, and to get to be a part of that is great… And, being with Lindsay is definitely also very comforting."
Mendez — chicly dressed in all black, with an emerald green pendant hanging from her neck — confided that before "As Long as You're Mine," their second-act duet, she told Klena, "I love you, D! … Because I do! We've had such a long journey together, and every milestone we have, I just think, 'I can't believe I get to work with this guy still.' It's so special for us." "It was very reminiscent of [our] opening night," Klena said of their duet. "We were just there for each other and helping each other through. We're such good friends and could read each other's minds. I'm there for her, and she's there for me."
|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
As Tom McGowan, the production's Wonderful Wizard of Oz, made his way down the press line at the Wicked after party, he was greeted by Tony Award winner Joel Grey, who originated the role in 2003.
"I just saw Joel Grey, who was the original [Wizard], of course, and I'm the current Wizard, and I replaced him in Chicago 17 years ago, so it's been quite, quite a night," said McGowan. "People love this show, and it's touched people, but tonight — just because it was a special anniversary night — the love coming from the audience was just unbelievable. It was a one-of-a-kind night."
Grey said, "I just love seeing everybody I worked with. I had one of the best times in [ Wicked]."
Other notable Wicked alum in the house included Eden Espinosa, Christopher Fitzgerald, Ana Gasteyer, Stephanie J. Block, Mandy Gonzalez, Dee Roscioli, Teal Wicks, Kristy Cates, Annaleigh Ashford, Katie Rose Clarke, Erin Mackey, Andy Karl, Sebastian Arcelus, Kyle Dean Massey, Richard H. Blake, Jayne Houdyshell and Michelle Federer, among many others.
"It's so much better than a high school reunion," said Federer, who originated the role of Nessarose on Broadway. "The first curtain call for opening night on Broadway was pretty special. It was my debut. There were a few of us making our debuts, so to stand there and to have that… There's a lot of pressure when you're performing your show and it's your debut — then you get to the curtain call, and you have no pressure anymore. You can actually take it all in, and I feel like that is burned into my mind. I will never forget that. That was my favorite part of tonight, too — seeing their curtain call and seeing them take in the audience. It was a [full-] circle moment. " The curtain call included personal shout-outs to those involved in the success of Wicked, including the show's creative team, cast, crew, musicians and, of course, the fans.
As for what's next for Wicked, Federer said with a laugh, "It's taking over the world — Elphaba for president!"
Houdyshell, a former Madame Morrible in Wicked, said that the message of the musical is what she thinks keeps the show running.
"It's an important message," she said. "Almost every girl I've ever known — including me — at some point in their youth or adolescence feels terribly out of the group or unpopular. Elphaba is a great heroine for girls who are going through that, and Glinda is a great foil for her because we all knew girls like Glinda, too, but the fact is she makes this huge journey… They ultimately come to an understanding that the loyalty that's needed to keep that friendship is the most important thing… I think as long as there are girls from 7-17, there will always be a Wicked."
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)
Wicked Stars, Creators and Alumni Celebrate 10 Years on Broadway; Curtain Call and VIP Party