Today, we are thrilled to share a fan interview with a fan who has probably seen the show more times than anyone else who has interviewed – Kerri. She’s seen it so many times she’s lost count, starting on November 19, 2003 (Idina Menzel & Melissa Bell Chait) all the way through this year. Check out her incredibly detailed & incredibly interesting interview below!
Who is your favorite Elphaba and why?
In the end, I can break it down to a 4-way tie – Kristy Cates, Caissie Levy, Idina Menzel, and Julia Murney (in alphabetical order).
Kristy Cates was fabulous – she brought dozens of little quirks to the role and totally poured herself into the role. She had fabulous comic timing, but knew how to be dramatic. I was able to see her grow and develop between one of her first performances as a Broadway understudy all the way through to her last performance in Chicago. All the way through, the heart, passion, power, and even the amazing “western sky” growl all remained.
Caissie Levy was, in my opinion, the very best Los Angeles had. Her acting was unique and layered, differing her portrayal from almost all of her LA peers. Vocally, she has a truly gorgeous voice, and is one of the only Elphabas whose voice truly emulates Elphaba, that cool “witchy” sound. She’s fabulous. Her final performance was one of the strongest Elphaba performances I’ve ever seen – she was flawless.
Idina Menzel was the original ebodiment of this character. I actually believe that many Wicked fans almost underrate her – she was…just, wow. Her acting was always natural, and she created a soul for Elphaba that went with her to London. Even though her voice had ups and downs, her sheer power and intensity always amazed me. She definitely deserved her Tony.
Julia Murney, I believe, is the best Elphaba. She truly understood the character and made defining acting choices. I actually saw her Elphaba debut on tour, and was reduced to tears – I’d never seen the role portrayed to such intensity. She devoted herself entirely to the character, and it was Elphaba onstage. Not Julia Murney.
Honorable mentions – Lisa Brescia, Cassidy Janson, Pippa Grandison, Sabrina Carter, Willemijn Verkaik, Maria Walter, Felicia Ricci, Jennifer DiNoia, Mandy Gonzalez, Alexia Khadime and Patrice Tipoki…in no particular order.
Who is your favorite Glinda and why?
Kristin Chenoweth remains my favorite Glinda. While others have surpassed her depth of performance, her comic timing, voice, star power, and just natural fit in the role make her stand atop. Jennifer Laura Thompson, I feel, is the very best Glinda. Every acting choice, movement of portrayal, aspect of comic timing, line delivery…everything was GLINDA. I think her final performance was the best individual Glinda performance is the best individual performance of the role in Wicked history.
Honorable mentions – Katie Adams, Jana Stelley, Kate Reinders, Stacie Morgain Lewis, Libby Servais, Cristin Boyle, Sarah Jane Everman, Melissa Bell Chait, Helen Dallimore, Christeena Michelle Riggs, Katrin Taylor, Louise Dearman, Katie Rose Clarke…etc.
Which Elphie/Glinda pair do you think has the best chemistry?
Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth! 🙂 The had an insane bond as performers. Everything they did complemented each other, whether it be interactions during Kristin’s “Popular” or their emotional intensity/friendship during “For Good”. You really had to see it and experience it live to believe it. In addition, I’d tack on there Willemijn Verkaik and Lucy Scherer. The bond between them at Willemijn’s last was almost tangible.
What other standouts have you seen in other principal roles? What about ensemble?
I know I’ll forget some here, but.a few that have stood out would include –
Fiyero – Norbert Leo Butz in the OBC always comes to mind when I think of that role. He really outlined how I thought the role should be played, I suppose. Of all the Fiyeros I’ve seen since, Brad Bass has reminded me the most of Norbert. He made strong acting choices that actually made the character more likeable. Plus, whenever he sang ALAYM with Dee Roscioli, I always wanted to give a standing ovation or something. My favorite performance of that song. 🙂 Nicolas Dromard fits the Brad Bass mold, as well. I think he was an excellent choice to open San Francisco. Aaron Tveit and Sebastian Arcelus were among the best vocally, I think, ever. They had great castmate chemistry, I thought. I was never disappointed. Oliver Tompsett, I thought was quite good in the role. He made the role likeable and fun, but didn’t sacrifice depth for those qualities. And Cliffton Hall and Kevin Kern were always what I called “nice guy Fiyeros”, because their overall presence gave a very nice-guy vibe, while still remaining true to the character. I could always imagine myself falling in love with them. 🙂
Nessarose – Nessarose is a role with very little stage time, so I think it takes a lot to really make an influence on me (and the audience in general). Michelle Federer, I think, really showed how to do that. Even in the OBC, I thought she had a very nuanced performance, albeit with occasionally lackluster vocals. After her to Broadway, though, I thought she was she’s mesmerizing. She still wasn’t as strong vocally as others, but I think her acting makes up for it. Jenna Leigh Green, I thought, was enthralling vocally, and her acting was equally amazing. I think she was somewhat wasted in the role, but she was excellent in it. I thought she was strongest on tour. As far as her Elphaba goes, I must say that, while she acted the part well, she didn’t fit the role as well as she did as Nessa. Marcie Dodd was also fantastic as Nessa, I thought. She’s perhaps the strongest vocally that I’ve seen in the role, and her acting brought wonderful innocence. Since joining the second national tour, she’s also one of my favorite Elphabas. 🙂 In addition, some of the London Nessaroses – Katie Rowley Jones, Caroline Keiff, and Natalie Anderson – have been excellent, and really were very different from each other.
Morrible – Madame Morrible is always a fun character – for me, it’s OK for the role to be over-the-top, and I certainly don’t think singing is necessarily a requirement. Overall, the character can be great for fun laughs and/or pure terror. Carole Shelley was, for me, the best person possible to originate the role. I once read a review of her that referred to her performance as “delicious”, and that just about fit. 🙂 She was calm but over-the-top, totally serious yet ridiculously hilarious. I loved her every time I saw her. Rondi Reed is another great Morrible. She really sang the role, and brought a comedic intensity to the role. Always a joy to watch. Then there’s Barbara Robertson, who was a brilliant replacement for Rondi in Chicago. She was simply outrageous. Her “Wicked Witch” speech before DG scared the living daylights out of me, but, at the same time, I realized how truly ridiculous she was and almost keeled over laughing. I ADORED her. I was glad to see her close Chicago’s production, and I really hope to see her take the role to Broadway. Rue McClanahan was an interesting take. I thought she did a great job, though she was very miscast. It was always interesting to watch her, though. Jayne Houdyshell and Miriam Margolyes were always amusing, and really made the parts interesting. As far as tour Morribles go, I aadore Myra Lucretia Taylor, and Alma Cuervo, and Barbara Tirrell. All were good singers, and had unique characteristics to their takes as Morrible. Barbara, for instance, made the role almost sympathetic, as opposed to evil, I thought. 🙂
The Wizard – I’m never picky on my Wizards. It’s very weird, I think, but, really, the Wizard could be flat and it wouldn’t matter much to me. That said, Joel Grey was interesting as the Wizard. He’s never what I would imagine when I think of the Wizard, but he made the role interesting. I also really appreciated George Hearn. He, I thought, changed the role up and I thought more of him than Joel Grey when I thought of the Wizard. PJ Benjamin, Gene Weygandt, Lee Wilkof, Ben Vereen, Don Richard and Lenny Wolpe stand out in my brain, as well. 🙂 I just don’t specifically rank them.
Ensemble members – As far as ensemble goes, I travel from production to production and really never get to know one ensemble. 🙁 I’m really jealous of London fans, because they only have one ensemble (and such a jubilant one!) Hmm…I’m always impartial to Pfanees and ShenShens. In London, specifically, Sabrina Carter and Nadine Cox were fantastic in their parts. Sabrina Carter and Jennifer Tierney continue this tradition. 🙂 Brooke Elliott and Katie Adams were fantastic in the original first national tour cast, as well. And Erin Wilson and Libby Servais were my favorite ensemble members on the second national tour, in those parts. The Chicago ensemble always stood out to me as being fantastic singers and their character was always developed, despite lack of development in the script. Cristin Boyle and Laura Pugliese were wonderful drunken Shiz students. Meredith Atkins, Dan’yelle Williamson, and Kate Fahrner were my favorite voices in the group. On Broadway, a number of people have stood out. Kathy Deitch and Sarah Bolt both were/are amazing in the classroom scene, both really making highlights of themselves. I loved Katie Webber and Kathy Santen as a Witch’s Mother/Midwife team, and I love that Kristen Leigh Gorski took over Katie’s place. Heather Spore, Lindsay K. Northen… Oh! and hoever started growling the line “No one cries, they won’t return” In NOMtW is amazing in my book – I want to say Brandi Chavonne Massey? I know Chelsea Krombach sort of perfected that growl – it gave me goosebumps every time I heard it. Actually, I love that line in general – Kristy Cates, Caissie Levy, Emily Rozek, Christeena Michelle Riggs (my favorite pink hat girl!), Courtney Corey (my other favorite pink hat girl!), and, briefly, Maria Eberline all did at one point. One of my favorite aspects to the performances in London that I’ve seen have been their ensemble. I know I said Sabrina Carter, Nadine Cox and Jennifer Tierney already, but Aileen Donohoe, Chloe Taylor, Kerry Washington, and Cassidy Janson all stood out to me. The entirely of London’s ensemble is so exciting and jubilant, though. The ensemble was also my favorite part of the LA production. Simply fantastic. Overall, though, I think the ensemble is perhaps the most underappreciated parts of any show. Major ensemble love to all! 😀
Who are some standout understudies you have seen?
I love understudies! They bring a fresh energy to the show, and it’s cool to watch talent develop over time! I tend to attract them, too. And not just in Wicked. I saw Shoshana Bean as Tracy in Hairspray twice.
Elphaba – My first favorite Elphaba understudy was Courtney Corey, who I first saw in December 2005. There was something instantly becoming about her Elphaba. Number one, she honestly looks more like a Glinda understudy. Her voice actually confirmed this. She sounded like a soprano disguised as a mezzo-soprano. This actually made her something interesting to hear. She has a unique sound – her vibrato wass relaxed, it seemed, but very fast. She hit virtually every note. But her acting is what sold her to me. She had a very unique take on the part – she wasn’t dry, or as quirky as Kristy, or as bitter as Eden, or as “new-girl-on-the-block”-ish as Julie. She was herself. She was endearing. I loved her. I was so glad I got to see her in LA – she was a bit more polished, but still raw enough to marvel at. Since her, I’ve seen and gotten to love a number of other Elphaba standbys understudies. Zoe Gertz made the best out of a bad situation in Australia, and really made the role hers. Maria Eberline made the part her own acting-wise, and, especially the with time, was explosive vocally. Brandi Chavonne Massey and Dan’yelle Williamson were both powerful, soulful singers, and I thought that while their acting was raw their first time, there was something alluring about them, and I saw great potential. This past year, Stephanie Torns and Anne Brummel both impressed me greatly. Stephanie was interestingly soft as Elphaba, and shockingly strong vocally. Anne Brummel brought a unique innocence to the role that I hadn’t seen since Idina. She came across so comfortable in the role, both vocally and acting-wise. I saw Julie Reiber something around ten times as Elphaba, and loved her every time. Her acting was very new-girl-on-the-block-y, and was so fun to watch. She loved the role, and her vocal ornamentations were always refreshing and lovely. Merideth Kaye Clark made some wildly different acting choices and was a vocal powerhouse. The first time I saw her, I thought nothing of it, really. She floored me. She grew some much so much. I’d love to see her promoted. Jennifer. Carrie Manolakos was a major surprise. She made fantastic acting choices and had a voice that made you think, “Wow.” She needed some practice for fluidity, but she’d be amazing as lead. Coleen Sexton was awesome as Elphaba – she had a sweet, but powerful voice. She made great acting choices, and her chemistry with her castmates was astounding.
Glinda – Well, I talked a lot for favorite Elphaba understudies/standbys, so I’ll shut up a bit for Glindas. Stefanie Brown, Emily Rozek, Megan Sikora, Kate Loprest, Erin Hasan, Valerie Link, Lindsay K. Northen, Heather Spore, Laura Woyasz, Laura Bell Bundy, Melissa Fahn… I listed several above, so I’ll stop there.
Morrible – I always rank Adinah Alexander and Jan Neuberger together. They both made insane impressions on me – they brought the delicious evil-ness of Carole Shelley into their performances but really turned the character into something of their own merit. I was never upset to see either of them – in fact, I preferred them to many principles. Since then, I’ve seen a number of excellent Morrible understudies. Kathy Santen needs to be promoted. I’ve seen her a number of times, and she brought hilarity to intensity. Linda Kerns was my favorite LA Morrible. Her individual performance was excellent, and I thought she fit in more with the cast than Carol Kane did, in fact. Kerry Washington was excellent in London – her performance was so individual and different from Miriam Margolyes, it was always interesting. Gaelen Gilliland was the first “young Morrible” I ever saw, and I thought she was excellent. She gave the role a fresh perspective, and with the range and power to sing the role of Elphaba, she was never dull. Similarly, Sarah Bolt has given me the same impression in the current Broadway cast. Her more youthful delivery, combined with Erin Mackey’s Glinda, created an unusual, unique dynamic.
Nessa – As I said earlier, Nessarose is a role with very little stage time, and it takes a lot to really make an influence. Megan Sikora, I think was a very striking Nessarose. She vocally fit Glinda more, but she didn’t really have issues with the score. Her acting choices were very striking – they brought a girlish intensity. A very nuanced performance. The combination of her as Nessa and Adinah Alexander as Morrible made for two very fascinating shows – I once made a comment that I’d dig across the United States with a spoon to see that understudy combo. The first Nessa understudy that made me think that since Megan was Betsy Struxness. She had a spark that made her instantly drawing. I’m not entirely sure why I loved her, but I did. Michelle London later gave me the same impression – she was flawless, I thought, in the role. She and Anne Brummel also gave an excellent pairing as siblings, which made me like her even more. I got to see Eden Espinosa, Shoshana Bean, and Stacie Morgain Lewis all as Nessarose before they became full-time performers. They all impressed me in that role, in some ways more than they did in their regular roles. Jacqui Graziano, Kate Loprest, and Kate Fahrner were my favorite Chicago Nessaroses. She had a surprisingly good character arc, combined with a great voice. I think she really completed the cast at Stacie Morgain Lewis’ last performance. Natalie Daradich was stellar as Nessarose – very haunting. I also really enjoyed Briana Yacavone’s Nessa. She had something…unique about her.
What are some of your most memorable stagedoor memories?
I wish I had more stagedoor memories than I do. I haven’t always stagedoored after every performances, just due to time constraints and such. That said, I must say that Wicked has some of the absolute nicest cast members of any show ever. 🙂 I’ve been hugged by nearly every Elphaba and Glinda I’ve seen at some point or another. They really are all class acts. Every time you complimented them at the stage door, they really took it to heart and thanked you so. A recent example would be Nicole Parker, who I talked with 7 times, I believe. I don’t think I ever said my name, but she remembered my face, and after 3 encounters, always greeted me with a hug. Others, like Lindsay K. Northen and Brandi Chavonne Massey were willing to not only say hi and be really pleasant, but joke with you and laugh with you. I can’t say that I that I haven’t met equally friendly performers at other shows, but I think Wicked will always stick in my mind as one of, if not the, friendliest-casted shows. A couple of specific memories – after Kristy Cates’ last show, I commented to Kristy that I saw her as a Broadway understudy, and had adored her Elphaba ever since. She looked at me bug-eyed, like she was going to cry, and just hugged me. I sang “Happy Birthday” to Sarah Jane Everman with a group of others at her Broadway performance. She giggled and tried to embrace us all. 🙂
What was your favorite time seeing the show?
My number one, I think, will always be Kristin Chenoweth’s last, on July 18, 2004. That cast was really on their A-game, full of energy and excitement. Kristin was so heartbreaking, just flat-out crying at points. Vocally, Idina and Kristin were probably the best I saw them, and their chemistry…wow. And Kristin’s last “Popular” was probably the greatest 10 minutes in Wicked history. 🙂
Other than Wicked, what are some of your favorite shows?
My all-time favorite musical is You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. I saw the 1999 revival a large number of times, including its closing performance, and loved every minute of it.
Besides that, I went through phases where I thought RENT was the greatest thing since electricity. Ultimately, I count it as one of my favorites, though I do think it closed at the right time. I really enjoyed both recent revivals of Gypsy. I personally think Linda Balgord and Bernadette Peters were both equally fabulous in the title role. Laura Benanti was also fantastic. I was a big, big fan of Aida and Into the Woods, See What I Wanna See, and Les Miserables. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, & Legally Blonde were always fun, too. I was sorry to see them close. Nowadays, I’m really loving Next to Normal, and Chicago.
(When I first wrote this interview, I had attached this comment –
Actually, a word on Chicago – I saw Ashlee Simpson as Roxie Hart twice in October 2006 in London, and LOVED her. I was really shocked by how good I thought she was. My recommendation is that, if you have the chance to see her in the role, DO IT. I know I will. 🙂 )
Which “Wicked” alumni/current cast member’s work outside of “Wicked” do you admire most?
I’d have to say Kristin Chenoweth. The fact that she was in Wicked was really what turned me to the show in the first place.
I saw her in 1993’s Animal Crackers at Paper Mill Playhouse as Arabella. I saw Steel Pier in 1997, and really enjoyed myself, and thought she was probably the highlight of the show. Then the 1999 revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown came, and I fell IN LOVE. No, really, I loved it, and thought she was the highlight I was so happy she won the Tony, and was so glad I got to see the closing performance. Wicked solidified my admiration of her. I thought she was simply amazing in The Apple Tree revival, too. She sort of made that show for me. Same with Promises, Promises.
Outside of theatre, I was a faithful viewer of her sitcom Kristin in 2001, and thought it ended far too soon. (Not necessarily a great TV show, but still, a lot of fun, and Kristin was great in it.) I thought she added a new spice to The West Wing, which I had once watched regularly, but fell out-of-touch with. I never got into Pushing Daisies, unfortunately, but I was SO glad she won the Emmy. In film, I kind of await the day she stars in a movie that’s…well, a really great film, but she’s always fun in parts she’s been in.
Overall, I think she’s one of the most vocally-gifted, pleaasant, charismatic performers of modern times.