Oakland Park born and bred Christian Thompson has the role of his life – he's playing the dashing prince, Fiyero, in the national tour of the Broadway musical "Wicked."
"Wicked" comes to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts for an extended run from Feb. 15 through March 5 and when Thompson steps on stage in Miami, it will be only his ninth performance in the role.
"I premiered in the tour in Orlando on Feb. 7 just in time to do the shows in Miami," says Thompson, who is one of five actors that became new cast members mid-tour, all beginning the run with the show in Orlando. The other new cast members are Tara Kostmayer as Nessarose, the wicked witch's wheelchair bound sister, Kyle McArthur as Boq, the munchkin in love with Glinda the Good Witch, Boise Holmes as the professor, Doctor Dillamond, and Timothy Shaw as The Wizard.
Inspired by the novel titled "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,' " by Gregory Maguire, the Broadway musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman looks at what happened in the Land of Oz long before L. Frank Baum's 1900 classic "The Wizard of Oz" begins. It focuses on the unlikely friendship between high-school friends Elphaba and Galinda, who eventually become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, Good Witch of the North. (In Baum's book, she's Glinda, in Maguire's, she changes her name from Galinda.)
For Thompson, 30, nabbing the role of Fiyero isn't only a dream come true, (he's been in the audience nine times since he first saw 'Wicked' on Broadway when he was 10 years old) there's a historical significance, too.
The mixed-race actor is breaking barriers as the first Black person to play Fiyero on this, the second national tour of the show, which began in 2009. The first national tour started with Derrick Williams, a Black actor playing Fiyero, in 2005. Taye Diggs stepped in for a month on Broadway in 2003 and there have been other Black actors who have portrayed the dashing prince, but the numbers are small.
"I believe that in the history of 'Wicked' there have been less than 10 (Black actors) that have been cast in the role in the show's 20-year run, and there have been companies all over the world, so it means a lot to me," explains Thompson, a Jamaican American. His father, Devon Thompson, was born in Jamaica and his mother in Worcester, Mass., outside of Boston.
It was his mother, Sherri Patterson, whom he credits with being his biggest career supporter and who took him to see his first Broadway musical, "Cats," when he was 7 years old at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. After that, he says he was hooked on musical theater.
He also fondly remembers his Broadway experience of "Wicked" three years later. "My mother and I were in New York for an event, and it was the day we were supposed to go home, but my mother said, 'let's try to go see 'Wicked,' " he recalls. So, they put their names in for last-minute tickets, a lottery as it is called, for the matinee. "We lost. But being the supportive super woman that she is, my mother wanted to try again for the evening show." He told her that if they got the tickets, she would change their flight back to Florida. They won and Thompson saw the original Galinda/Glinda, Kristen Chenowith, in the role on Broadway at the Gershwin Theatre.
His mother continues to be his biggest fan, he says, driving from Oakland Park to Orlando to see him make his debut as Fiyero and she'll be in the audience at the Arsht Center, too, he promises.
Thompson decided he wanted to be an actor when he was in the third grade. The family lived across the street from North Andrews Garden Elementary School of the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, then he went on to Parkway Middle School in Lauderhill.
He earned a performing arts scholarship to American Heritage School. He fondly remembers dancing with a hip hop troupe, the Pop Stars, from "the time I was 9 until I was 13," his mom driving him to Boca Raton for rehearsals.
When it was time to apply to colleges, he headed to New York to take part in the National Unified Auditions, where more than two dozen universities and colleges from across the country audition students to join their theater programs. He was offered a scholarship to Penn State University.
After his graduation in 2015, he immediately was cast in roles in regional theater: He played Bernardo in "West Side Story" at the Ocean City Theatre Company, had a role in "Dreamgirls" in Raleigh, N.C., and in the National Black Theatre's world premiere of "Blood at the Root " in Harlem.
In 2016, Thompson was cast as Benny in the national touring company of the Broadway musical "Rent," which came to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. He remembers the feeling of his life coming full circle when he was on stage in the same place where he sat in the audience as a youngster to see his first Broadway musical.
When he talks about "Wicked," his genuine love for the show comes through. "It's one of the best-written musicals of all time. It has the perfect mixture of originality, a lot of spectacle, plus a lot of heart and intellect," he says. "There's something really wonderful about my role."
He finds an even deeper depth in the bond that develops between Elphaba and Fiyero. "She is looked at as different because she is born with green skin."
For Thompson, being a Black actor cast in a part that is usually played by a white performer brings another layer to the role.
"Elphaba is a 'person of color' in a way. So, when you have these two outsiders connecting, that's a slightly different story that has an impact in a different way I think that's really exciting and I'm looking forward to exploring just what that means."
Thompson says he hopes he can make an impact on the "Little Me" that may be sitting in the audience, a kid like the wide-eyed ten-year-old who watched "Wicked" on Broadway.
"I want to be an inspiration. I think that I've been given a huge opportunity," he says.
"Wicked" is at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, from Feb. 15 through March 5. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday; matinees, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m., Sunday (1 p.m. matinee on Thursday, Feb. 16) Cost: $33-$193. Information: 305-506-1232; arshtcenter.org