There has been a stink in the “Wicked” community (and rightfully so) lately over the sudden firing of Annaleigh Ashford (former Broadway Glinda; u/s Glinda in 1st National Tour) from Cirque de Soleil, and it has left many people wondering why she was let go when she was such a major character, appearing in most of the press articles, photos, and even having a large spot in the commercials. For some reason though, producers wrote her part (and one other part) out of the show.
Even though my heart goes out to Ms. Ashford, I think we must understand that Cirque de Soleil is a huge production – one that most people attend without really caring who’s in it. In a sense, it’s like “Wicked”, where maybe 0.005% of people could even tell you who was in the show. And like Cirque, it’s going to continue selling out anyway. That being said, if someone is not working or a part is not working (we really don’t know which is actually true in this case), they can be let go without any major repercussions, unless the casting is big and public. An example of this was the firing of Joanna Pacitti from the leading role of Annie on the National Tour and subsequent Broadway production of 1997: the casting had been done on a huge Macy’s Talent Search with a Turning Point Special also being aired about the casting. Needless to say, when word got out that she had been let go when she was out for two days with bronchitis, many people boycotted the show, leading to it’s quick demise, with the Broadway production only running from March to October of 1997.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for Annaleigh Ashford. She is merely a face on a commerical in pictures to most Cirque fans and her firing will not hurt the ticket sales of the show. That being said, I’m sure we all feel awfully sorry for her, because this is still a dreadful situation for her to be in.
PHOTO: Annaleigh Ashford in “Cirque de Soleil”; photo courtesy of playbill.com