Inside the Emerald City: Wicked's Headmistress Madame Morrible

By Playbill Staff
October 3, 2013

Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's international hit musical Wicked, which takes audiences to Oz before L. Frank Baum's famous tale of Dorothy begins, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Broadway Oct. 30 at the Gershwin Theatre.



To mark the Broadway milestone, Playbill.com is looking back at the magical and mysterious characters who inhabit the untold tale of the witches of Oz and a selection of the actors who have filled their shoes. Each week Playbill.com will highlight a different leading character from the hit musical. (Read more about Wicked's 10th anniversary here.)

This week we look at Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Shiz.

Click through for a tour of Oz's Wicked inhabitants:

Carole Shelley
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award-winning U.K.-born actress Carole Shelley originated the role of Madame Morrible in the 2003 Broadway production of Wicked. She returned to the Broadway production for an encore 2007 engagement. Shelley made her Broadway debut as Gwendolyn Pigeon in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple and has since played roles in Billy Elliot, Cabaret, Show Boat, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Miser, Noises Off, The Norman Conquests, Stepping Out, Absurd Person Singular and The Elephant Man. She earned Tony Award nominations for her work in Billy Elliot, Absurd Person Singular and Stepping Out and won the Tony for The Elephant Man.

Rue McClanahan
Photo by Joan Marcus

Late Emmy Award winner Rue McClanahan was Broadway's second Morrible. Best known for her work on two classic television sitcoms, "Maude" and "The Golden Girls," she appeared on Broadway in the revival of The Women, as well as California Suite, Sticks and Bones, Father's Day and Jimmy Shine. Her film credits are numerous.

 

"Well, this whole experience is just a little piece of heaven," McClanahan told Playbill.com about her role in Wicked in 2005. "I've been allowed to develop my own character, which I'm still working on. I'll probably still be working on it seven-and-a-half months from now. She starts out so likable and apparently trustworthy and good, and then by the end she's an absolute daughter of Satan and gets dragged off to prison. She goes crazy. She has always been a little crazy, and she's been covering it up because she wants power. She's power mad. And she, you know, by the way, is the brains behind everything."

Jayne Houdyshell
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award nominee Jayne Houdyshell was Broadway's Morrible in the spring of 2006 and returned to the production in 2008. A Tony Award nominee for her Broadway debut in Well, Houdyshell was also Tony-nominated for her turn as "Broadway Baby"-belting Hattie Walker in the 2011 Broadway revival of Follies. Her Broadway appearances also include Bye Bye Birdie, The Importance of Being Earnest, Dead Accounts and the current revival of Romeo and Juliet.

Rondi Reed
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award winner Rondi Reed originated the role of Morrible in the 2006 Chicago production of Wicked. She repeated her work in the Broadway production in 2009. A member of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Reed is a Tony Award winner for her work as Mattie Fae Aiken in Tracy Letts' family drama August: Osage County. She currently appears on the television series "Mike & Molly."

JoAnne Worley

JoAnne Worley made her Wicked debut as Morrible when she joined the Los Angeles company in 2008. Worley also appeared on Broadway in The Drowsy Chaperone; The Billy Barnes People; Hello, Dolly!; Prince of Central Park; and Grease! Among her numerous screen credits are "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," "Hot Dog," "The Feminist and the Fuzz," "What's a Nice Girl Like You?," "The Shaggy D.A.," "The Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World," "The Gift of the Magi," "Nutcracker Fantasy," "Don't Miss the Boat," "Through the Magic Pyramid," "Love Boat" and "The Wuzzles."

Liz McCartney

Liz McCartney, who earned critical praise for starring as Big Sue in the Broadway premiere of Boy George's Taboo, joined the national tour of Wicked as Morrible in 2011. Her numerous Broadway credits include the 2012 Broadway revival of Annie, The Tony Award-winning revival of South Pacific, as well as Les Misérables, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia!

Patty Duke

Oscar winner Patty Duke stepped into the role of Madame Morrible in the 2009 San Francisco production of Wicked. Duke was also seen on Broadway playing Aunt Eller in the 2002 revival of Oklahoma! Duke became famous after starring as Helen Keller in the original 1959 Broadway production and the subsequent film adaptation of The Miracle Worker, winning a 1962 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Carol Kane

Emmy Award-winning veteran character actress Carol Kane made her musical debut in the 2005 touring production of Wicked and currently repeats her performance in the Broadway production at the Gershwin Theatre. She will play Morrible when the show celebrates its 10th anniversary Oct. 30. An Academy Award nominee for "Hester Street," Kane is well known for her roles on "Taxi" and in such films as "The Princess Bride," "Scrooged" and "Annie Hall."