A Wicked Good Cause: Hit touring play goes for charity after dark

By : Jeremy Williams
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Broadway musicals are sometimes easily identified by a certain song or simple phrase, but no other can bring on the rush and excitement that one can do with just a single color, green.

Wicked comes back to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando on select nights Jan. 11- 29.

Wicked, for those who have been hit with a house and developed amnesia, is the story of the witches from Oz before Dorothy and her little dog Toto dropped in to muck things up.

“In Dorothy’s story, we start with the house falling on the Wicked Witch of the East in Munchkinland, and that’s when she first meets Glinda, and first meets the Wicked Witch of the West,” says Wicked actor Justin Wirick. “So Wicked back peddles, and years before that happens we look at how Elphaba, the Witch of the West, came to be wicked.”

Wirick joined the U.S. tour of Wicked in 2009 as a member of the ensemble.

“I play a bunch of different characters; I’m probably most easily identified as one of the flying monkeys,” Wirick says. “I’m also an Ozian guard, an Ozian official, a student, a citizen of the Emerald City; the ensemble is in the show so much in the production, filling the background.”

Wirick is also a member of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS helps those living with HIV/AIDS across the country receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance.

“The entire theater community is heavily involved in the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS,” Wirick says. “Every Broadway company and national tour participates at least twice a year in a season of post-show collections where we give a speech at the end of the show and we stand in the lobby in our costumes and raise money for this incredible cause.”

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS began as two separate organizations; Equity Fights AIDS was founded in October 1987 by the Council of Actors’ Equity Association and Broadway Cares was founded in February 1988 by members of The Producers’ Group. The organizations merged in May 1992 and have raised more than $250 million.

“Something that the tours do while we are out visiting cities is we pair up with a local organization in whichever city we are in (for ‘Wicked After Dark’ they are teaming up with the GLBT Center of Central Florida) and do a cabaret concert, either on our off day or when we aren’t doing a show,” Wirick says. “We don’t do these too often, they take a lot of work to put together and that is in addition to doing eight shows a week. So it’s a really special thing we do only a couple of times a year, and everyone in the company of Wicked all wanted to do ‘Wicked After Dark’ for Orlando.”

Wirick and the company of Wicked performed a similar cabaret-style show when they were in Central Florida in 2013, and they felt they needed to do something again after the events at Pulse last June.

“The tour was in New Orleans when it happened and we all knew we would be going to Orlando in January,” Wirick says. “That gave us almost half a year to get the idea of this show going, and now we are just a couple of weeks away and we are wanting this to be huge and successful and bring some fun and entertainment to as many people in Orlando as possible.”

Wirick, who is also one of the producers for “Wicked After Dark,” has been helping and organizing with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS since his first year as a member of the traveling company of Wicked.

“I got really involved with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS just a few months after getting on with the tour of Wicked. I realize how very lucky I am to be able to do what I do, but I’ve been doing eight shows a week for 52 weeks a year for seven years, so doing things like this helps keep me mentally healthy and creatively stimulated,” Wirick says. “I’m a part of something that is helping raise money for a worthy cause and I’m meeting new people in different communities and cities across the U.S., then the next year when we come back through those towns I get to come back and see old friends.”

“Wicked After Dark” will be a one-night only event at The Abbey Jan. 26.

“We do have a Wicked performance that same night, so Wicked After Dark will actually kick off with a performance from Rachel Potter,” Wirick says. “Rachel is amazing; she is a Wicked alum, a Broadway veteran, a finalist on the hit show X-Factor, a national recording artist and Florida native.”

Potter appeared on Broadway in 2011’s The Addams Family musical and the 2012 revival of Evita, and was also Glinda’s understudy in the Wicked National Tour in 2010.

Potter, and her band Steel Union, will open the show at 10:00 p.m., the cast of “Wicked After Dark” will take the stage at 11:00 p.m.

“It’s going to be all our own, non-Ozian material, which we love to do,” Wirick says. “We love Wicked but when we are out on tour we rarely get a chance to perform other stuff. It’s going to be a variety of songs and dance numbers, material that plays a little bit more cabaret and risqué. ‘Wicked After Dark’ is not your traditional ‘family-friendly’ show so we are going to let loose and have some wicked fun [laughs].”

The show will also feature a VIP reception starting at 8:30 p.m., general admission, which is standing room only and carries a cover of $35, enter at 9: 30 p.m.

There will be a number of auction items available at “Wicked After Dark” to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; including a chance to go backstage and watch Elphaba be painted green, show memorabilia autographed by the cast, a chance to actually be in the show and more.

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