Latest Elphaba Takes A Unique Yellow Brick Road To 'Wicked'

"This is, hands down, probably the most difficult role I will ever play," Jessica Vosk says. "It's very complex. I have to take everybody on this journey to see this character growing up over the course of three hours."

The journey Vosk is talking about wends from Munchkinland to Shiz University to the site of a fallen house. The show is "Wicked," and Vosk plays Elphaba — also known as the Wicked Witch of the West — in the latest national tour of the long-running Broadway hit.

The tour visits the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford for 16 performances Nov. 30 through Dec. 11.

"Wicked," based on the novel by Gregory Maguire about the origins of the famous witches in L. Frank Baum's century-old "Wizard of Oz" books, has been running in New York for 13 years. Touring companies have existed since 2005. This tour is still on the most professional Equity union level. It's unusual for a show to tour at that standard for more than a decade, but "Wicked" is wicked special. The New York production repeatedly broke the record for the highest weekly gross in Broadway history. The show has had similar record-breaking success in England and Australia. There have been dozens of productions of "Wicked" around the world.

Vosk just joined the "Wicked" tour in September and is contracted to stay with the show for a year. She comes to it fresh from the Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof." This is her first national tour of any kind.

"It's pretty wild," she says. "You never know what you're going to get."

Vosk took her own sort of yellow brick road to Oz and "Wicked." "I had a big old career in finance. I worked on Wall Street until just five years ago. Then I said 'I need to do something more lucrative.'" She laughs. "Just kidding."

Vosk always felt the pull between business and show business. She studied musical theater at the University of Hartford's Hartt School for a single semester before transferring to Montclair State University in New Jersey.

"I loved Hartford," she says. "I love Connecticut. I have family there. But I wanted to be close to New York City, so I left."

The role of Elphaba is cherished by a certain type of musical theater performer. "For those of us who love to belt," Vosk says, "this is a show we all want to do." Yet it comes with special challenges. "I'm only offstage for two minutes out of three hours. To get through a show, I have to drink five liters of water. That's a lot of water."

You'd think that Elphaba's elaborate emerald body paint might also be an issue, but it turns out that it's pretty easy being green.

"The makeup is not an issue. It's very light. It's painted on, then powdered so it can't rub off on anybody. It's not anything too crazy."

Asked if there's a moment in the show that best defines the character she plays, Vosk finds it in Act 2: "Elphaba makes a decision to grow up, take the reins and change the world. She confronts Glinda. She finally feels she has a voice. She has this monologue about finally making it this far — when you've been misunderstood, bullied and tormented for years and you take control of your life."

THE NATIONAL TOUR OF "WICKED" by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book) is at the Oakdale Theatre, 95 South Turnpike Road, Wallingford, from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 to $165. 203-265-1501,

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