A shimmering vision of elegance, Natalie Daradich will float onto the Stranahan Theater stage as Glinda the Good when “Wicked” opens its three-week run March 31.
“It’s such a music theater gem to pop down in a bubble and it’s a great entrance to a show,” she said. “I really love singing the opening [‘No One Mourns the Wicked’]. I’m a soprano and that’s where I live; I love to sing all the high stuff.”
The musical has been defying gravity since opening in San Francisco and moving to Broadway in 2003. The Tony Award-winning show continues to set box office records, with eight productions of “Wicked” worldwide, including two North American tours and a New York production in the Gershwin Theatre.
Stephen Schwartz penned the music and lyrics for the show, which is based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 book, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” That novel was inspired by L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” published in 1900 and immortalized on celluloid in 1939.
“My mom actually laughs about this. We would rent movies from the public library near our house, and I would ask for ‘The Wizard of Oz’ pretty much every week,” Daradich said. “I didn’t want to give it back. I loved Dorothy and, actually, it’s funny, I loved Glinda and her bubble. I, as a little girl, really liked big dresses, sparkles, and they said I loved pink, so in the movie, she comes down in her pink bubble with the big pink dress and I just loved her."
Daradich sounded exuberant, just as one would expect from an actress playing Glinda, when she took a break from rehearsing in Dayton, Ohio, for a phone interview.
“Everyone likes to say [‘Wicked’ is] a prequel to the movie, but it’s not; it’s sort of just looking at ‘The Wizard of Oz’ from another way,” the actress said.
“I think that because the movie is so well-known and such a liked story … when certain things happen to tie itself in, it’s sort of like the audience feels like they’re in on it, so they feel like they’re part of something that they already know and love.”
Starring in “Wicked” with Daradich will be Marcie Dodd as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
“It’s just so exciting to see what you think you know is not what you know, and it’s kind of nice to sort of break all those preconceived notions of that evil green lady who cackles,” Daradich said. “And it’s so endearing to meet [Elphaba] when she was going to school and finding friendship, and on top of all of that, there’s great music and then there’s magic, and the costumes are amazing — it’s sort of like a spectacle with a really great story. It’s so beautiful. I loved the show the first time I saw it.”
That was in 2005 when the first national tour stopped in her hometown.
“I saw the show in Toronto and ever since then I was like: I need to be in this show. So I’m as much of a ‘Wicked’ fan as the fans are,” she said and laughed.
She joined the L.A. production of the musical in 2007. Daradich was a “swing,” covering the female ensemble and filling in if someone was sick or taking the stage for an actress. She soon had her own ensemble track and understudied Nessarose, Elphaba’s sister, and Glinda.
“When I moved to the end of I think my L.A. run, in San Francisco, I was Glinda’s standby, so then you’re no longer in the show every night, and you just wait backstage to cover Glinda if she’s sick or has an accident onstage. So it’s actually been an amazing, interesting journey to go from piece to piece to piece to piece,” she said.
“I definitely wouldn’t be with anything this long if I didn’t love it,” added Daradich, who took over the Glinda role in the touring company March 10.
She can’t wait to perform in the Glass City.
“Toledo’s going to be a fun one for me because it’s the closest to home for my family,” Daradich said. “My sister’s going to pile everyone in the car, and they’re going to drive down and see [‘Wicked’]. I’m so excited.”
She’s also happy to be part of an empowering tale.
“It’s just such a beautiful story of friendship,” she said. “There’s the romantic side and there’s the side stories, but at the end of the day it’s about two women who are friends and develop a relationship together and make each other better people.”
‘Wicked’ impact goes beyond ticket sales
It seems “Wicked” ads have been beckoning for months, teasing Toledoans with the chance to spend one short day in the Emerald City and see the wizard.
There are still some tickets left for the musical, which will be at Stranahan Theater from March 31 through April 18.
“For the entire run, which runs 24 performances, about 85 percent of the tickets have been sold,” said Ward Whiting, executive director of Stranahan Theater and Great Hall. “The Saturdays are virtually sold completely. There are probably four or five shows at least that are totally sold-out.
“The tickets that are left, the best ones are probably going to be during the week, the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday tickets, and those are running $73 and $83.”
Whiting saw “Wicked” in Chicago in 2007.
“It’s a dynamite show. It’s very, very visual, extremely lovely to see; there’re all sorts of fantastic costumes as you might expect when dealing with ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ” he said. “It basically picks up on the book that was written about what happened among the witches before Dorothy came.
“Every year at Easter and several times during the year, the old movie, the original ‘Wizard of Oz’ is played; generations have been seeing this since the ’30s, so this has become almost a household word in America. So to pick up on the same theme is very easy and visually very appealing.”
Another bonus: Jobs.
“The show itself will have local people earning wages to set up, run and tear down the show,” Whiting said. “There will be 31 people who will be engaged during each performance, local population, there’ll be 135 when they load it out, and 70 when they bring it into the theater.”
“Wicked” can be seen Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Matinees will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $38 to $128. Recommended age for children is 8 and older.
“I would say don’t sit too close to the stage because there are some things that come right out at you. This is the ultimate in 3-D; it is real 3-D,” Whiting said and laughed.
*interview with Natalie from the free press*