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INTERVIEW:  Matt Shingledecker from the National Broadway Tour of Wicked
By Henri A. Gutierrez

     Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?
    Austin audience will have a chance to find out first hand with the return of the Broadway award-winning musical phenomenon, Wicked.
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     The newest edition to the Wicked family is Matt Shingledecker, the most recent actor to portray the role of Fiyero, Wicked's leading man.
    "It's been incredible, like being shot out of a cannon," Shingledecker told Austin On Stage Magazine about his start with the Wicked cast. "There's so many technical elements, and I've only had three weeks of rehearsal."
     Shingledecker says will be with the touring cast through the fall.
    "But who knows? Potentially longer," he noted. "The company is amazing. The Wicked family in general is amazing. I'm having a blast so far, and I can't see anything changing any time soon."
    Wicked tells the story of the witches of Oz, Glinda the Good, and The Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, who's name pays homage to the originator of the Oz stories, L. Frank Baum. Glinda's and Elphaba's love interest, Fiyero, is an Ozian Prince, whose party-boy reputation precedes him at Shiz University, where the witches first meet.
     "I feel like my Fiyero is a little bit of bad boy at first," Shingledecker said. "He has a little bit of a rock sensibility, and he knows what he's doing - he's coasting, but at the same time he knows exactly what he wants and what he wants to do."
    The novel - Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, written by Gregory Maguire - was the inspiration for the Broadway musical.
    "The book is dark, and aspects of the show are dark," Shingledecker noted. "I try to definitely pull those out as much as I can, because - as beautiful as the musical is - there's some definite social commentary moments in there, which is what I think makes the musical
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so well rounded."
     Wicked first hit Broadway in 2003, and has since toured around the world, flying into Austin several times in recent years.   The touring production of the show holds true to the integrity of the original Broadway production, while being a unique experience of its own.
     "It's pretty much exactly the same (as on Broadway)," Shingledecker said.  "They change a few things, because we have to adapt to different theaters, but I think they're minute differences."
    "The beauty of live theater is that it's not completely set every night," he added. "For the most part it's the same, but they also give us actors the freedom to make our own choices. They want each production to be a unique experience for anyone who comes. You can see Wicked seven or eight times, and you'll get a different experience each time - which I think is
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really important."
    For audience members who have not seen Wicked before, and are unfamiliar with the plot, the show is based on what isn't seen in author L. Frank Baum's classic tale of The Wizard of Oz.  "It's the untold story of the Wizard of Oz - it's another look at this story we all know and love," Shingledecker said.
     The actor quoted a line by Glinda from the musical and explained that Wicked asks the question "if people are born wicked, or if they have wickedness thrust upon them."  Each character in the show, at a certain point, has to make a choice whether to be good or evil, and the meaning of those words.
     "You don't really know (the answer)," he said. "It's sort of this question of what is right and what is wrong and turning that on its head, and showing the world is a little more colorful. It's a little more gray instead of black and white - or if you will, a little more green."

Wicked runs February 19th through March 9th at the Bass Concert Hall, with performances on Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.  An additional matinee is scheduled on Thursday, February 20th at 1 p.m.  Tickets are be available by phone at (512) 477-6060, at the Bass Concert Hall box office, located at 2350 Robert Dedman Drive, or by visiting www.BroadwayinAustin.com.

(Photos courtesy Broadway Across America.; top - Matt Shingledecker; middle - original Broadway production; bottom - Jenny DiNoia as “Elphaba,” photo by Juho Sim.)
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