Up the three flights of stairs leading from the Fox Theatre’s backstage area to the “Wicked” cast dressing rooms, dozens and dozens of black clips have been taped to the yellow-hued walls. A box of Sharpie markers is strategically taped at each landing. During each performance of the Tony-winning musical “Wicked” (running through Oct. 9 at the Fox), show posters are affixed to each clip and in between wardrobe changes, vocal warm ups and listening for entrance cues, each cast member autographs each poster on the way up or down the stairs. By the end of the touring production’s run here next month, the cast will have signed approximately 1,000 posters as part of an ongoing fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. But the musical’s commitment to the non-profit doesn’t end with the posters and the donation buckets passed at each performance.
Tonight at 7:30, on their one night off this week, the cast will present “Our Wicked, Wicked Ways” a Broadway Cares cabaret show and benefit at the 14th Street Playhouse. It’s an opportunity for the cast to cut loose, lose the green make up and sing some songs not associated with the show they perform eight times a week. For “Wicked” cast member Justin Brill, who plays Boq in the show, the benefit represents a fun evening with friends (sans the silver make up he sports in Act Two when he is transformed into the Tin Man). Tonight’s fundraiser will benefit Atlanta’s Joining Hearts, AID Atlanta and Jerusalem House, along with BC/EFA. To purchase tickets, click here.
So how tough is it to convince the cast on their one day off each week to jump back on stage for a benefit show? “Usually, people are pretty willing to sign up,” Brill says laughing during an interview in his dressing room. Behind him, his elaborate Boq costumes are arranged chronologically by scene on a clothing rack. “The cabaret show is always a lot of fun for us. On tour, the show becomes this insulated bubble of ‘Wicked’ life, to use a metaphor from the show. It’s an opportunity for us to have an impact and raise some money and use our talents for good. We get a chance to sing some cool songs that aren’t from the show and get to show off other talents for the audience. We’ve got such a fantastic cast and it’s nice to see the understudies have a chance to sing out and display all their talents too.”
Tonight’s benefit also features three once in a lifetime “Wicked” live auction items, including a walk on (complete with costume fitting, a dance rehearsal, two tickets, a backstage tour and a bicoastal witch photo with you and the show’s two leading ladies); a backstage tour, one-on-one with Glinda (played by Amanda Jane Cooper) and two tickets for the show; and an opportunity to witness actress Dee Roscioli as she is “greened” for her role of Elphaba as the two of you chat before you make your way to your seats for the show.
“We’ve seen ‘greenings’ go for $10,000,” Brill says. “It’s wild. But I understand it because you’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at a show that really very few people ever get to see. And Dee Roscioli is such a great lady and has such a fun energy to be around. For fans of the show, to get that experience with her is very cool.”
In addition to his duet of “Knock on Wood” at tonight’s benefit, Brill has recruited the touring company’s dance captain Shanna Vanderwerker to create some choreography for another number, Randy Newman‘s “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Off stage, the pair are married. “We are so lucky to be able to do this show together,” Brill says. The couple has been on the road with “Wicked” now for two years. The hit musical is also one of the few touring productions out there currently that could be categorized as “recession-proof.” Says Brill: “It’s extremely gratifying to be part of a successful show but you also feel a sense of responsibility to give the audience a good show. The tour has been going along for a number of years. People are now seeing it for a third and fourth time. You want to make sure you’re living up to those expectations. With the economy the way it is, this is a big night out for a lot of people. And you want to live up the audience’s expectations on that night out.”