Before Bellevue native Megan Hilty made a resounding splash as a musical theater performer vying for the big time on the TV series “Smash,” she delighted Broadway audiences as Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked.”
And before Stephen Schwartz composed “Wicked,” he had won praise for scoring such Broadway hits as “Godspell” and “Pippin,” and such animated Disney features as “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Both Schwartz’s and Hilty’s talents will be showcased in the latest Seattle Men’s Chorus program, “Totally Wicked,” presented this weekend (March 29-30) at McCaw Hall.
The concert will include songs from throughout Schwartz’s fruitful career. But the reference to “Wicked” in the title may alone have attracted many patrons.
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That blockbuster musical is loosely based on the novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West “ by Gregory Maguire, a flip-side view of “The Wizard of Oz” from the perspectives of Glinda and Elphaba, her “wicked” counterpart.
An instant hit, with a fantastical setting and focus on the relationship between two strong young women, “Wicked” has been selling out on Broadway since its 2003 opening. It’s also a big ticket on tour, in Seattle and around the world.
Schwartz still marvels at its wildfire success. “It’s just been amazing,” he said, in a phone conversation from his New York home. “Just recently two friends of mine were walking by the Gershwin Theatre, and told me there was this huge mob outside. It was for the nightly ‘Wicked’ ticket lottery, and there had to be 200 people in line for one row of inexpensive seats.”
The composer is also thrilled by the critical and audience reception to the current circus-themed revival of “Pippin,” which will arrive here on tour in the summer of 2015, for an engagement at the Paramount Theatre.
Original “Pippin” director-choreographer Bob Fosse had framed the 1972 show — about an innocent seeker and his many adventures — with the ensemble cast as “this somewhat ominous commedia troupe. [Revival director] Diane Paulus had the idea of a circus setting, because she’d just done a lot of work with Cirque du Soleil that she thought could be applied in this context.”
It is a tribute to the heft and dynamism of Schwartz’s song catalog there are so many songs from different films and live musicals to choose from, when putting together a compilation concert like “Totally Wicked.”
And though work on a future project (a new animated musical for DreamWorks), and a commitment to perform in New York is keeping him from attending the McCaw event, Schwartz is glad for a chance to sing Hilty’s praises.
He and his team took a chance of hiring the little-known Hilty early in her career, as a replacement for “Wicked’s” original Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth.
“Megan is a wonderful talent and a wonderful person,” he enthuses. “For Glinda you have to have an enormous range, because you need to sing soprano but also have a big Broadway ‘chest’ voice. That’s a combination a lot of singers, really good singers, don’t have. But Megan does. And she’s very funny. Her talent has taken her very far, in a very short time.”
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org