The tour of Wicked is in good shape. After winning my second lottery to see the show (well, I didn’t actually win the first time, though I did get in), I was thrilled by the show even more than the first time. Most impressively, though, I remembered one of the reasons why Broadway is so awesome—the casting.
In Hollywood, you have a few actors of color who have broken through—Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry—but you can still attend movies where the most color comes from all those African-American cops and Asian-American women judges. People of color in Hollywood are largely relegated to perfunctory friend roles or distinctly cultural parts—the wicked karate master, the Chinese restaurant hostess, Tyler Perry flicks.
But on Broadway, on glorious Broadway, people are cast based upon talent, as evidenced by the glorious Wicked tour cast. Myra Lucretia Taylor was a sinister Madame Morrible, playing her early scenes as annoyed grandmother until she joins with the Wizard, her declaration of Elphaba as the Wicked Witch being truly, purely evil. DeeDee Magno Hall—a popular Kim in Miss Saigon—is a powerful Nessarose, playing all the shades of the character in her second act scene, making Nessarose both sympathetic and selfish, hateful but needy. Hall’s husband Cliffton Hall, an experienced Chris in Miss Saigon, probably has some Asian heritage somewhere, and he was a superbly sung Fiyero, a masculine, romantic leading man who shines in the role in every way.
When I write, I do whatever I can to specifically write for actors of any color (though, granted, this wouldn’t work for the historical piece), and I’ve even written a role specifically for an Asian-American actress, attempting to highlight the struggles of actors who—as Lea Salonga says in Making It on Broadway—find themselves typed out because of ethnicity.
We’re still not fully “there” yet, but I think we are getting closer—to the point where someone could hopefully star in Bombay Dreams and Guys and Dolls or Aida and Wicked. Let’s continue casting based on talent alone.
the Broadway Mouth
November 10, 2008