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‘Wicked’ a Dream Come True for Actor

At Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center Now Through Feb. 9

January 17, 2014
By Phyllis R. Sigal - Design Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

When Jesse JP Johnson arrived in the Big Apple 10 years ago, it was his personal goal to be part of "Wicked."

And now, he's living his dream, playing the role of Boq in the touring production of "Wicked," now playing at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh.

"I had to be part of this show," he said.

Article Photos

Jesse JP Johnson

Prior to joining the tour, he performed as part of the ensemble of "Wicked," and understudied Boq on Broadway.

"Whether in New York on Broadway in the ensemble or on tour as Boq, I am living my dream and am so fortunate to be able to do so. Although, getting the opportunity to play Boq is defintely the topper on the cake," he said.

"This experience ... has definitely been a huge high to my career and I am extremely grateful."

Johnson describes the character he plays as the "heart" of the show.

"Without giving too much away," Johnson said, "Boq is a munchkin that has fallen head over heels for Glinda the first time he had seen her at school. However, Glinda couldn't be less interested in him and therefore tries to get rid of him by pawning him off to Nessarose (Elphaba's crippled sister). He does it reluctantly thinking that it would 'win major points' for Glinda but instead becomes stuck with Nessa.

"I love Boq's innocence and heart. ... He leaves a big stamp on the show and becomes a huge plot line in the little time he is on stage. It's such a fun and great opportunity as an actor to have."

Johnson, who said he was "spacey and hyper" as a child, credits theater as a positive influence in his life. He became involved at the age of 3 and "just fell in love." A self-professed "ham," he "loved being on stage" as a kid.

He participated in professional theater in the Denver area when growing up and attended the Denver School of the Arts in high school.

His favorite role to date is the current one.

But his No. 2 favorite is Luke in "Altar Boyz," a "nutty role," he said. "The show was nonstop and so fun to do." His character, he said, was one many people found hard to believe he could pull off. "I did, though, and had the best time doing it, too, and with such a great group of guys."

While he loves being a part of "Wicked," he would also love to be part of a new show. "Being able to create something from scratch would be incredible. I was lucky enough to get a taste of that by doing 'Glory Days' on Broadway. It was a short-lived experience, but made such a huge impression," he said.

He's also appeared in "Xanadu" on Broadway, and in the touring productions of "9 to 5," "Grease," "Altar Boyz" and "Oklahoma."

Touring, he said, is "never short in experiences, and I have had a different one with every city I visit."

Although, he said, "the older I become, the more settled I would like to be. This business is very unpredictable, but I would love to get a show in New York City and stay in one place for a while."

Johnson noted, "Having a job in this business is such a blessing, and I am so lucky to have a part in such a huge production as 'Wicked.'"

"Wicked," winner of the Grammy Award, three Tony Awards and declared "the Best Musical of the Decade" by Entertainment Weekly, runs through Feb. 9 at the Benedum Center. The story of Elphaba and Glinda - who become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good- the musical is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman.

Tickets are available at the box office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., by visiting or by calling 412-456-4800.

Those who wish to participate in a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of seats should arrive at the box office two and one-half hours prior to each performance. Participants will have their names placed in a lottery drum; 30 minutes later, names will be drawn for a limited number of orchestra seats.

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