Paul Kreppel stood on the Proctors stage with the rest of the “Wicked” cast Sunday afternoon as Mayor Gary McCarthy presented the stars with a ceremonial key to the city.
Christine Dwyer, still in full green stage paint, and her non-green counterpart Jeanna de Waal posed with the plaque-set key before a packed house of cheering fans.
“I’m the wizard,” Kreppel said between autographs backstage, “so the mayor was going to give it to me, but I told him it was the ladies’ show.”
Even so, for Kreppel, the experience was a little extra special. The cast took their bows and retreated back stage, and from there to dinner. They’ve already done the show a few times in Schenectady. Sunday was their 7th of 24 performances so food took priority over adoration.
The wizard alone, having changed into a cardigan, chatted and signed autographs with the exiting crowd.
He grew up in Kingston so for a traveling stage actor, Schenectady counts as home. Twenty of his friends and family came out to see him perform, including his mother on her 92nd birthday.
“I never got the key to Kingston,” he said, adding that Schenectady is close enough.
The mayor has handed off four city keys to shows in the past year. The first went the “Shrek,” others to “Jersey Boys” and “Memphis.”
“I like to watch faces of the cast when they get the key,” said Richard Lovrich, Proctors’ marketing director, “when they feel that appreciation firsthand.”
McCarthy said the keys are a token of the city’s thanks for “bringing a world class performance,” but it’s more than skilled acting that won the “Wicked” cast their plaque.
“About 90,000 people will see this show,” McCarthy said. “It’s a tremendous draw to this area, and has a tremendous impact on the economy of downtown Schenectady.”
He called the city keys a “subtle marketing thing” that ties Schenectady and Proctors to such successful Broadway productions as “Wicked” and “Jersey Boys.”
The idea is to continue drawing theater lovers from all over the Capital Region and beyond. Considering the distinct lack of empty seats at 3 p.m. on a Sunday, it appears to be working.
“It’s a special thing,” said company manager Erica Norgaard, “but the cast kept asking me, ‘what is the key to?’ It’s to the city.”
“I think it might get them 10 percent off dinner,” McCarthy joked.
“Wicked” runs at Proctors through Nov. 25.