Potempa: A ‘Wicked’ Halloween includes wizards, witches and recipes

Potempa: A ‘Wicked’ Halloween includes wizards, witches and recipes

It was nine years ago this week that I chatted with always smiling actor John Davidson while he was in Chicago doing the national Broadway tour for the 10th Anniversary run of “Wicked,” opposite another mutual stage and TV pal, actress Kim Zimmer of the iconic soap opera “Guiding Light.” Zimmer is a favorite talent I often cross paths with each summer while up north in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she usually returns annually to perform at The Barn Theatre in neighboring Augusta.

Last month, Zimmer played unhinged “biggest fan” Annie Wilkes at The Barn Theatre in a run of “Misery,” based on the Stephen King novel.

Both Zimmer’s and Davidson’s names came up in conversation last week during my weekly arts and culture radio show Of Notoriety I host at WJOB in Hammond when my guest was Broadway actor John Bolton, who is also familiar name and face from his role on “All My Children.”

Bolton is spending his holidays in Chicago as part of the national Broadway tour of “Wicked,” playing now through Dec. 4 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. in the heart of the downtown theatre district and presented by Broadway in Chicago.

Bolton is familiar with the downtown Chicago landscape during the holidays.

In the fall of 2011, I interviewed him while he spent months preparing and fine-tuning the role of “the Old Man” aka Ralphie’s father in the pre-Broadway Chicago run of “A Christmas Story, The Musical!” which premiered at The Chicago Theatre. Of course, this stage story adaptation originated from the writings of Hammond’s radio and writing claim-to-fame humorist Jean Shepherd.

But since March, the affable Bolton has been having fun as “the man behind the curtain,” casting his own spell on audience opposite Jennafer Newberry as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North and her green counter Elphaba, destined to transform in the Wicked Witch of the West, as played so convincingly by Lissa deGuzman.

Tickets to “Wicked,” which now ranks as the 5th longest-running show in Broadway history, having been seen by 60 million people around the globe and raking in more than $5 billion in international box office green, range from $59 to $199 available at www.BroadwayInChicago.com, www.WickedTheMusical.com or 800-775-2000.

“We get to travel all over the country and play these gorgeous old roadhouses but the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago it really one of the crowning jewels for performance stages nationwide,” Bolton said during our radio chat.

“It’s such beautiful architecture.”

Bolton said the roster of actors who have worn the now signature waistcoat and top hat of the Wizard of Oz in “Wicked,” reads “like a who’s who” of all of his favorite stage heroes, starting with Joel Grey who originated the role on Broadway.

“I’m so pleased I can also call John Davidson a friend,” Bolton said.

“He is such a true and versatile talent as well as a nice guy.”

When I last chatted with Davidson, now 80, nearly a decade ago, he was traveling with his wife Rhonda Rivera during the national tour of “Wicked.”

Both Bolton and Davidson agree besides the entertaining backstory sharing the origins of all the characters Dorothy meets in the Land of Oz, “Wicked” is also filled with important lessons relevant for all ages about themes of acceptance, trust and friendship.

Prior to his role of wizardry, Davidson’s career has not only spanned Broadway and stages in Broadway and Branson, but also movies and especially television, the latter tenure which frequently included hosting duties for show’s like ABC’s “That’s Incredible!” and the syndicated game show “Hollywood Squares.”

In 1990, Davidson and wife Rhonda shared co-hosting duties, rotating with Dinah Shore and Florence Henderson for the kitchen series “Holiday Gourmet” on cable’s TNN aka The Nashville Network. While he admitted his wife is most often in charge of their own home kitchen, Davidson has a favorite dessert recipe he told me comes from his own mother’s kitchen file. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was the third of four boys born to Elizabeth and Allie Davidson, both ordained Baptist ministers.

The couple, now married 38 years, also credit this easy and deliciously “wicked” and decadent turtle brownie recipe as a favorite of their daughter Ashley. Given the recipe is made with candy caramels, it is perfect for Halloween. John also has two children, John Jr. and a daughter Jennifer, from his first marriage to Jackie Miller.

Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is the director of marketing at Theatre at the Center. He can be reached at pmpotempa@comhs.org or mail your questions: From the Farm, P.O. Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.

Makes 16 brownie bars

1 package (14 ounce) caramels

2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided use

1 box (18 ounce) German chocolate cake mix

3/4 cup softened butter

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

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12 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips

1. Combine caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk on top of a double boiler and stir mixture until blended.

2. In a bowl, combine cake mix with remaining milk and softened butter to make a batter until it holds together, yet is still crumbly, adding in nuts.

3. Press one-half of the batter mixture into a greased 9-inch-by-13-inch cake pan and bake for 6 minutes at 350 degrees.

4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the warm top and then pour melted caramel mixture as next layer.

5. Scatter remaining crumbly batter mixture over the caramel layer and return to 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and cool slightly before cutting into bars.

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