Jason Graae, a Tulsa-raised actor, began his run as the Wizard in Wicked in May and enjoys how the production fleshes out an iconic film.
The worldwide hit musical, which comes to Tulsa this month courtesy Celebrity Attractions, is set in The Wizard of Oz universe … before Dorothy drops in. Graae’s first night performing the role was in Omaha, Nebraska – a city holding symbolic weight in his character’s origins.
“Omaha … that’s actually where the Wizard ‘blew in’ from in the movie, so it was a great place to open the show,” Graae says.
The musical steps away from the cut-and-dried, good-versus-evil theme, which engendered the movie’s success, and delivers an intricate backstory and emotional rounding out of The Wizard of Oz’s magical ensemble: Glinda, the Wizard and, of course, Elphaba (later dubbed the Wicked Witch of the West).
“In the movie, the Witch was just pure evil, and Glinda was perfect and sweet and kind and lovely,” Graae says. “What I love about this show is that you get a backstory for these characters that are so part of our DNA growing up. Elphaba was an outsider – she had to deal with the challenges that went with that – but she has a great soul. And Glinda, who looks like she’s got it all together, is as insecure as the next person.”
The movie’s Wizard, a bumbling but well-meaning man bogged down by social expectations, is also upgraded in Wicked, with baggage and intricacies that audience members will discover as the story plays out.
“All of the Wizard’s scenes have a lot of subtext going on; it’s really changing and fulfilling,” Graae says.
Wicked is a Broadway rarity because it has retained commercial viability 15 years after opening. Graae believes the show’s success lies in its always-relevant message of acceptance and against-all-odds friendships.
“Everything is so divisive [in the real world] right now, so seeing Glinda and Elphaba, who are at opposite ends of the spectrum, coming together is so beautiful,” he says. “It’s relevant right now, but no matter the political climate or things going on in the world, this show continues to speak to people because the message reinvents itself.”
The show’s Sept. 5-23 run at the Tulsa PAC brings Graae back to his old stomping grounds, where he graduated from Edison High School and participated in groups like Theatre Tulsa and the Tulsa Youth Symphony. He looks forward to exploring downtown, reconnecting with old friends and living on Tulsa time, he says.
“When I get off the plane in Oklahoma and feel the air, I think, ‘Ah, I’m home.’ It’s so green and beautiful,” he says. “I don’t know; it’s just part of who I am.”
For tickets to Wicked, visit celebrityattractions.com.