‘Wicked’ arrives on a broomstick Dec. 4 in Cleveland

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Jennifer DiNoia in Wicked. The tour comes to PlayhouseSquare Dec. 4-Jan. 5. (Photo courtesy Joan Marcus)

In Wicked, the celebrated tale of friendship between girls who are seemingly polar opposites, Hudson High School graduate Bridie Carroll plays Shen Shen, one of the snooty best friends of golden girl Glinda at Shiz University.

The smash musical Wicked, currently in nine productions worldwide, is coming to Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare for a five-week sitdown during the holidays, running Wednesday through Jan. 5. Carroll, a 2000 Hudson High graduate, is part of the second national Munchkinland Tour, running concurrently with the first national Emerald City Tour as well as productions on Broadway and in London; Tokyo; Australia/New Zealand; Seoul, South Korea; Mexico City and a U.K. Tour.

The musical phenomenon, based on the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a back story about Elphaba and Glinda by Gregory Maguire, just celebrated its 10th anniversary on Broadway Oct. 30. It tells the tale of the witches of Oz, including the popular Glinda and the fiery green girl Elphaba, who at first is reviled by her classmates.

Carroll, a Boston Conservatory graduate, was previously on the tour for three months as an emergency replacement for someone who was injured. She returned to the tour as a featured ensemble member and the understudy for Madame Morrible after just a six-week break, and has been with the company for 17 months.

Shen Shen is a snobby partner in crime with Psanee: “We are the only two named Shiz characters,” Carroll explained in a phone interview from Indianapolis.

Carroll, who grew up in Hong Kong, Atlanta, and finally Hudson, participated in theater at Hudson High as well as Coventry High School for the Performing Arts, where she split her time for her freshman and sophomore years. She also performed at Aurora Community Theatre and Weathervane Playhouse. Her parents, Kate and Tom Carroll, live in Hudson.

The actress, who has lived in New York for eight years, counts herself fortunate to have been steadily working in musical theater: “I’ve probably only been in the city four of those years [due to theater] work outside the city.”

Carroll has gone on eight times as Madame Morrible, Shiz's head mistress, which requires an intricate makeup job to transform her into an imposing authority figure.

“The character can sort of evolve just from putting on your costumes or you wig or your makeup,” said Carroll, who has understudy rehearsal weekly or every other week to make sure she’s prepared to go on stage as Morrible, if needed.

“I'm definitely nervous to go on but excited to do something I don't normally do in the show,” Carroll said.

The Wicked production has to cover actors for every role, so the opportunity is rare. Transforming into Morrible takes Carroll twice as long to do her makeup, due to elaborate contouring: “Her makeup is severely elite: It’s high status.”

Carroll wears three different wigs in the show, which figures a total of 73 unique wigs. She wears one wig for Shen Shen, another wig of buns as an Emerald City Citizen, and a wig of three massive circular rings of braids for a 35-second transition scene in the second act.

“It almost looks like the Quidditch hoops from Harry Potter,” Carroll said of the wig.

The actress, who blasted the Wicked cast album throughout her college years, remembers taking a bus from Boston to see one of the show’s previews 10 years ago. She was thrilled when Liza Minnelli attended the preview to see her friend Joel Grey as the Wizard, and Minnelli came out on stage after the curtain call to give a little speech.

“The music is really gorgeous. Stephen Schwartz is very well known for his music and his style,” said Carroll, who sees similarities in the Wicked score to Schwartz’s music in Godspell and Pippin.

Wicked is the winner of three 2004 Tony Awards, including best actress for Idina Menzel as Elphaba, best costumes and best scenic design. The tour is coming to PlayhouseSquare for the fourth time since 2007, the last time being in 2009.

“Everyone will get something out of this show because you’ll either love the music or you’ll be blown away by the spectacle and the flying and such that happens in the show,” she said. “If you’re someone who’s into fashion, the fashions will blow your mind … and on top of it, the story is just beautiful.”

Carroll said she feels blessed to be spending the holidays performing near her hometown this year: “It's a perfect show to take everyone to for the holidays. It's a fantastic show about friendship and being true to yourself.”

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com.

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