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Off To See The Wizard

Meet Don Amendolia, the wonderful Wizard of Oz in the hit Broadway musical, Wicked.

By Allison Onyett

Don Amendolia as the Wizard of Oz

Don Amendolia’s first real acting role was in his high school’s version of Annie Get Your Gun. The New Jersey native laughs that he had one line that got taken away. Whoever cut Amendolia’s line could not have foreseen the success the Broadway star now boasts on his resume—highlights that include working alongside Academy Award winner Jane Fonda and multiple off-Broadway productions such as Cloud Nine, which won him the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award. He’s also worked on the Oscar-nominated short film 12:01 PM, and has had over 30 guest starring roles on hit TV shows like Seinfeld and Frasier. Now, the 66-years-young actor is touring with Broadway Across Canada’s Wicked in the role of the Wizard. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, the Tony Award-winning musical provides a new glimpse into the Land of Oz, long before Dorothy and Toto followed the yellow brick road. We chatted with Amendolia about his career, working with Jane Fonda, and what audiences can look forward to in Wicked.

Life on Stage
WC: When did you get your first big break?
DA: Right out of school. Within two weeks I had my first off-Broadway show and my equity card. I was very lucky.

WC: What have been some highlights of your career so far?
DA: Cloud Nine was a big highlight before Wicked. 33 Variations with Jane Fonda was a show I’ll always remember.

WC: What was it like to work with Jane Fonda on Broadway?
DA: Wonderful. I can’t say anything bad about her. Very humble, professional, and talented. We became fast friends; I hope we will always be friends.

WC: What do you like about the stage?
DA: It’s absolutely the actor’s medium. It’s an empowering feeling to know that you are telling the story, but it’s also a responsibility you have to take seriously. There are no editors, no stopping, no redoing. It’s immediate, and I think that excitement is palpable in the room.

On Wicked
WC: How did this role come to you?
DA: I was asked to audition. I was very pleased to do it. I really enjoy the show every night. There’s no thrill like the end of the curtain call when you realize how happy people are to have seen it.

WC: What do you enjoy most about playing the role of the Wizard?
DA: The Wizard is one of those characters from childhood, he’s special. Of course in Wicked it’s different, we know a little more about him than from The Wizard of Oz.

WC: What can audiences expect from the show?
DA: A lavish production. They don’t cut corners, the show and the company is very strong, and it’s well maintained. We have people that have come back many times, and they are always kind to mention how strong they think this particular production is. The audience can expect a good time.

WC: How is this story different from the traditional story of Dorothy  and Oz?
DA: The director of this show, Joe Mantello,  said it’s as if you’re watching The Wizard of Oz and then suddenly the camera moves all the way over to the side and looks at the story another way. That’s one of the themes in the show—looking at things in a different way. You’ll see all the familiar things you’re used to from The Wizard of Oz, but you’ll look at them differently after Wicked.

A Travelling Man
WC: Do you enjoy being on the road?
DA: I do. I love being in different cities and seeing what there is to offer. It’s a constant battle to get good at keeping your bags light, but you get better at it as time goes on. Now we’re going all across Western Canada which is very exciting.

WC: Have you ever been to Calgary?
DA: I never have, I’ve been in Toronto a few times. Once we took a boat up to Victoria to see the Butchart Gardens, but we only stayed overnight, so I haven’t really seen that part of the country. I’d love to go to Banff, I’ve always wanted to see it. I hear its beauty is unparalleled. I’m excited about this leg of the tour, it’s going to be fun.

Wicked plays the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium June 29 – July 17. Tickets are $35 – $135, call Ticketmaster, 1-855-985-5000.

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