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Jay Laga'aia to Join WICKED as 'The Wizard' for Auckland Season, September 2013

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Jay Laga'aia to Join WICKED as 'The Wizard' for Auckland Season, September 2013

New Zealand-born star of stage, television and screen, JAY LAGA'AIA, is today confirmed to play The Wizard of Oz in the Auckland season of WICKED - the Broadway musical blockbuster coming to New Zealand in September.

Jay - known for his roles as Captain Typho in the films Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - has had a long and illustrious career that includes roles in television shows such as Water Rats, Play School, McLeod's Daughters, Xena: Warrior Princess, All Saints, Home and Away and Street Legal.

He is also known for his stage productions such as The Lion King in which he played Mufasa and for playing Judas in the New Zealand production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The role of The Wizard of Oz is a pivotal one in Wicked. It has been performed by television personality Bert Newton for the past few years after the sudden death of New Zealand star Rob Guest in 2008.

"To be able to come home with a show that is absolutely awe-inspiring is something that this prodigal son could only dream about. My biggest fear is not The Wizard but the amount of ticket requests from family and friends! Maybe Glinda or Elphaba could whip up a spell for me."

WICKED plays at The Civic in Auckland from 17th September 2013 - the first stop on its 10th anniversary celebration tour - and will run for a strictly limited season.

Tickets go on sale Monday 8th April from buytickets.co.nz or phone 0800 BUY TICKETS (0800 289 842) or ticketmaster.co.nz (09 970 9700). For groups of 12 or more,
call 09 357 3360 and for premium packages visit showbiznz.co.nz.

Jemma Rix - who has toured Australia and Asia as Elphaba - will reprise her role as the green witch and Suzie Mathers - with 300 performances in Singapore and Korea to her credit - returns to the role of Glinda, the good.

WICKED is "one of the most successful shows in Broadway history" (The New York Times) and now it is Auckland's turn to be enchanted by the award-winning hit musical, before Australia is reacquainted with the magic of WICKED.

When WICKED opened on Broadway, it worked its magic on critics and audiences alike. Winner of 35 major awards including a Grammy and three Tony Awards , WICKED is the untold story of the witches of Oz. Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz, one born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. WICKED tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.

For more about the show in New Zealand, visit wickedthemusical.co.nz.

Currently in its 10th year on Broadway, WICKED's North American and International companies have cumulatively grossed over US$2.9 billion and been seen by nearly 36 million people worldwide. Since opening at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway in October 2003, WICKED has regularly broken box office records, consistently grossing more than $US1.8 million a week. In the week between Christmas and New Year, 2012, it grossed a chart-topping $2.95 million, the highest grossing week in Broadway history.

In London, WICKED had the highest weekly gross in West End history (a record WICKED also holds on Broadway, as well as a North American weekly touring record in both the United States and Canada), and in Tokyo and Stuttgart it again set new box office records. During its three year tour of Australia, WICKED was seen by over 1.5 million people - which is equivalent to more than 1 in 20 Australians.

"We are very excited for WICKED to premiere at The Civic in Auckland during this 10th Anniversary Year. We trust that audiences there will embrace it as warmly as those in North America, the U.K., Japan, Germany, Holland, South Korea and Australia," said WICKED producers Marc Platt and David Stone. "It is a testament to the show's storytelling power that audiences from around the globe continue to embrace its universal themes."

WICKED Australia Co-Producer John Frost said, "Right from the beginning this show has been an overwhelming hit everywhere it has played. WICKED is a phenomenon, the most beloved musical of the past decade, and appeals to everyone from 8 to 80. People love it for so many different reasons - some people come to see WICKED for the engrossing story, some for the astonishing sets and costumes, some for the soaring ballads, some for the deeper messages, and some to see the life-affirming friendship between the two girls who grow up to be Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

"WICKED is a musical that enchants audiences around the world and right across the spectrum," Frost said. I'm thrilled to bring her, in all her emerald beauty, to Auckland, before coming home to the wonderful Regent Theatre in Melbourne, where Australian audiences fell in love with WICKED for the first time."

Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, WICKED features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Academy Award-winner for Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt) and a book by Winnie Holzman (My So Called Life, Once and Again and thirtysomething). The production features musical staging by Wayne Cilento and is directed by Lisa Leguillou, based on the original direction by Joe Mantello.

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