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Something 'Wicked' this way returns

Venerable musical, which offers a twist on 'The Wizard of Oz,' makes third stop at Segerstrom Center.

February 14, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • The cast of "Wicked" at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The cast of "Wicked" at Segerstrom Center… (Photo by JOAN MARCUS )

Napoleon Gladney is no stranger to wearing several hats.

A tree, emotions, the wind, a prince, a vampire, and even music notes — these are just a few roles that the Los Angeles-based professional dancer has enacted.

Now, as part of the ensemble of the popular Broadway musical "Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz," Gladney plays multiple parts in the same production, spinning in and out of gear as a student, towns person and flying monkey.

"'Wicked's' music, costumes, light and scenery are all phenomenal and can stand on their own," Gladney, 25, said. "And so, when you put everything together, it forms a great story with underlying ideas of friendship, first impressions, not judging people, the concept of good versus evil and questioning authority.

"There are several different themes that can be pulled from 'Wicked,' which I think speak to people individually, allowing every audience member to have a unique experience."

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The production is coming to the Segerstrom Hall next week for its third engagement. The show's earlier runs in 2006 and 2011 were greeted by nearly full houses.

"'Wicked' is a story with a big heart," said center President Terry Dwyer. "First off, there is a really clear and compelling story at the core of it. The music is delightful, and the roles are great for standout performers. Our audiences found it thrilling and responded to it with tremendous enthusiasm."

"Wicked" is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the play centers on the friendship of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.

Trained in choreography and ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, contemporary and African dance, Gladney, who recalls always being on the move even as a child, joined the company in 2010.

"Anything I could see, whether it was a music video or ice-skating, I'd reenact the movements in my living room and backyard," Gladney said. "Even as a 5-year-old child, I demonstrated a deep love for dance."

"Dancing is a fantastic art form that allows me to express myself and tell a story using my body," said Gladney, who draws inspiration from master choreographer Alvin Ailey. "The training that goes into being a dancer and the work that you put into it is very unique, because that is what and who you are all the time."

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