Current star of The History Boys, Desmond Barrit, swaps teaching prospective Oxbridge students for ruling over a magical kingdom when he replaces Nigel Planer as the Wizard in Wicked on 9 June. The move marks Barrit’s first London musical performance since 2004’s A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, in which he played Pseudolus at the National Theatre.
Outgoing Wizard, Planer, is the last of Wicked’s original lead performers to leave the production, after nearly two years playing Oz’s less-than-magical supreme patriarch. Planer takes his final bow on 7 June. At the same performance, current Elphaba, Kerry Ellis, also leaves the production, swapping West End for Broadway, where she reprises her role as the green-tinted witch from 17 June.
Barrit joins a cast including Dianne Pilkington (Glinda), Oliver Tompsett (Fiyero), and Harriet Thorpe, who replaces Susie Blake as Madame Morrible from 12 April. A successor to Ellis has not yet been named.
Barrit, who plays Hector in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys at the Wyndham’s until 26 April, won the 1992 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance for his star turn in The Comedy Of Errors. The veteran performer has appeared in Royal Shakespeare Company productions including Henry IV Parts I & II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and Merry Wives – The Musical. His many other credits include Stuff Happens, The Wind In The Willows (both National Theatre), Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy (all Donmar Warehouse).
Wicked opened at the Apollo Victoria in September 2006 and has since played in excess of 600 performances to more than 1.2 million theatregoers. The musical is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, following the story of Oz’s two most famous magical powers; Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda the Good. Though L Frank Baum’s novel and the famous film portray Elphaba as an uncaring green meanie, Wicked tells a different story – set before, during and after Dorothy’s trip to the enchanted land of Oz – of two girls growing up, becoming friends at college and being pulled apart.
Wicked is currently booking to 4 April 2009. em>MA