Popular show 'Wicked' returns for 3-week run at Stranahan Theater

A scene from 'Wicked' featuring Hayley Podschun and Jennifer DeNoia.
A scene from 'Wicked' featuring Hayley Podschun and Jennifer DeNoia.

A popular frog once said “It’s not easy being green.”

Jennifer DiNoia, whose nightly greening turns her into the future Wicked Witch of the West, agrees, but adds her own take: “It’s pretty incredible; the makeup is stunning, it really is. I think most people look better green than they do in regular makeup.”

Actually, there are a multitude of colors involved with her physical transformation into the strong-willed and misunderstood Elphaba in Wicked and making its return to the Stranahan Theater Wednesday for a three-week run.

This Winnie Holzman book is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Here two polar opposites — Elphaba, who is obviously green and has trouble fitting in, and Galinda, who is beautiful and popular — meet and become roommates at Shiz University.

“Wicked” opens Wednesday and runs through Sept. 1 at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, with another matinee at 2 p.m. Thursday. Ticket prices range from $38 to $128. Information: 419-381-8851, stranahantheater.com, or theaterleague.com.

Elphaba and Galinda, who will become Glinda the Good, played by Hayley Podschun, move beyond their differences to form a tight friendship. We see how they come to be who they are when we meet them in the 1939 classic film Wizard of Oz that fateful day when a crash landing kills Elphaba’s sister and propels Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road.

This musical wonder has amassed more than $3 billion in ticket sales and has been seen by more than 35 million people worldwide, and will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary.

It opened on Broadway in October, 2003, won 35 awards, and took the 2004 Tony Awards by storm, nominated for 10 of the coveted trophies and winning three: Best Actress in a Musical (Idina Menzel for her role as Elphaba), Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. The original cast recording won the 2005 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album and went double platinum in 2009 with 2.5 million copies sold.

Wicked continues to cast its spell with seven productions worldwide including two national tours and more than 4,000 performances on Broadway. When it was here in 2010 most of the 24 shows sold out or were near capacity.

A quick hit on wickedthemusical.com confirms how strong this Ozian phenomenon is offering “Ozmopolitan News,” an online fan newsletter; Ozdust Boutique, to purchase clothing and souvenirs; Oz Interactive, to play games and send ecards, or to sign the Shiz Yearbook; Wicked Cruise, a weeklong fan cruise offering an inside look at the musical; and Wicked hot air balloon rides, to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

DiNoia, 31, a Connecticut native, started her Wicked journey in 2006 in Chicago and has played this role with companies on Broadway, in Australia, and in Seoul, she said in a recent phone interview before a Houston performance.

She joined this national tour in April, performing in New York, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas, and soon here. In the company is Jane Brockman as Midwife and understudy for Madame Morrible. She and her husband actor Tim Shew are well known in the area and have sung benefits for the University of Toledo.

“When I first heard the recording when it came out in 2003, I think, I’m like ‘Oh, my goodness this is incredible.’... It’s very rare that you find a show with two female leads and it’s such a powerful message of friendship and how deep a friendship can affect two women,” DiNoia said.

Her passion for the show and compassion for her character are evident when DiNoia speaks.

“She is a very bright girl who just wants to be left alone because her whole life she’s been bullied and not taken care of. That’s OK. Those are the cards she’s been dealt. She just tries to move forward. What she ends up finding is she needs to speak up for what she believes in, what she believes is right. I like to say that she becomes this leader of change,” DiNoia said.

“There’s so many levels to Elphaba, and I’m always discovering new strengths and weaknesses within her. It has been a dream of mine for so long to play this role. I feel really lucky every single night when I go out on stage because I get to be here.”

It’s easy to relate to Elphaba’s determination to uphold what she believes is right and feeling of not fitting in with the crowd, DiNoia said. The physical transformation to green is “the topping on the cake because when I look in the mirror I really don’t look like everybody else.”

DiNoia relishes this role and the true friendship she has developed with co-star Podschun. “We are living together in this city. She’s become a really good friend. I just got engaged and she’s going to be one of my bridesmaids.”

Life is full for DiNoia, who will take time off to get married when this contract ends in April, 2014. “In this business it’s a difficult life to plan because you never know what’s coming next. I hope my journey with Wicked won’t be over.”

Contact Julie Njaim at: jnjaim@theblade.com.