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"Wicked" casting a new spell in Chicago in return to Nederlander Theatre

Behind the scenes of "Wicked" during its return to Chicago
Behind the scenes of "Wicked" during its return to Chicago 03:48

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you're seeing green in the Loop, you can thank the limited engagement of "Wicked" at the Nederlander Theatre.

It's billed as one of Broadway's most popular musicals, and Chicago audiences are proving that 17 years after the show first played here.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra caught up with the touring company for a backstage look.

Ding dong, the witch is decidedly not dead when you look at the crowds in line for Wicked's return to the Nederlander Theatre.

The show, charting the reimagined history between the Witches of Oz, opened on Broadway in 2003. It premiered in Chicago in 2005, and the city's love for it is as strong as ever. Saavedra got the chance to chat with Jennafer Newberry, who's starring as Glinda, and she said the feeling is mutual.

"When I'm up here, about 30 feet up in the bubble, I have a moment of gratitude every night," Newberry said. "I don't think I'll ever get over it."

The Texas native got into the bubble full time in March of this year. Prior to that, she was an understudy for Glinda in the touring cast that has played all around the country. She said they're thrilled to make a home in Chicago through Dec. 4.

"The fact that we get to sit down somewhere for 10 weeks, and get to live life kind of like a local in a city like this, where there's just so much to see – so many amazing museums and amazing restaurants and neighborhoods – we're really excited to be able to explore," she said.

Fans of the musical are excited to see this touring company make the show their own. Backstage, we saw racks of costumes that transform the actors into Munchkins, flying monkeys, and the emerald-outfitted citizens of Oz. 

The Great and Powerful himself was there, waiting under the dragon's wings for showtime. Newberry even reenacted Glinda's entrance for us, via trunk, to her school at Oz. And when she offered Saavedra, a theatre kid at heart, a shot at it, she couldn't say no.

Then there are more serious moments, like when the witches' friendship sours. It features some real live wand wizardry that Newberry looks forward to every night.

"The wand toss is incredible in Act 2; and 'Popular' is always just iconic, and a cardio exercise," she said.

Does getting out on the stage and looking out ever get old ever get old?

"It really doesn't. We have played some iconic houses, and this theatre is one of them," Newberry said.

Newberry said, even if audience members know every word of the score, there is a new jolt of energy coming from the seats inside the Nederlander. It's the product of the sweet reunion of Chicago theater-goers and performers coming back together live after theaters went dark for more than a year during the pandemic.

"During the shutdown, we lost that connection between the audience and live theater. So I don't think we will ever take that for granted again. And I think the people in the audience feel it as well," Newberry said.

They sure seem to, delighting in every spine-tingling note Wicked continues to hit. 

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