Today, we are excited to share an interview with Felicia Ricci of the San Francisco cast of the show, which closes on September 5. Ms. Ricci is currently the standby for Elphaba in that production, having previously been in the ensemble and an understudy for the role. As we’re sure you know, she also runs a blog about her experiences in the show, called “Unnaturally Green”, which you can click on to check out. Tomorrow, we’ll have an interview with the standby for Glinda from the production, Libby Servais. For today, enjoy this wonderful interview with Ms. Ricci!
What were some of your favorite shows that you did in college? What did you learn from those experiences?
I did a ton of plays and musicals in college, most of which were student-run. Being a non-theater major, I had to learn by doing. Student-run productions often presented many logistical challenges, but made me appreciate the value of collaboration and cooperation among a company of people. My two favorite shows were probably “Assassins” (I got to play a Charles Manson fanatic!) and “The Last Five Years” (which had lots of challenging singing, and felt like vocal boot camp).
What was your audition process like for “Wicked”? How many times did you try out?
I got really lucky and had to audition for “Wicked” only one time in December 2009. The whole audition/callback/hiring process was barely week long! Talk about a huge life change in a short amount of time.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
I actually had a fitting before “Wicked” officially hired me; they wanted to make sure they could costume me from the resources they already had. So finding out was a bit of a process: all during the fitting I was bursting at the seams (figuratively, not literally (or else they wouldn’t have hired me!)) but I couldn’t truly celebrate until I had heard official word. Official word came later that day, while I was taking a walk with my best friend from growing up. We both started screaming and doing a celebratory dance.
Who was the first person you told that you had been cast? What was his/her reaction?
As I said, I was with my best friend at the time when I got the “you’ve been hired!” call. After that, the first people I called were my boyfriend (who was ecstatic!) and my mom and dad (who were also ecstatic!). Then, as the day progressed, I literally made a million more calls and pulled people aside on the street to tell them I’d been cast in “Wicked.” Just kidding about that last part.
What was the most difficult part of your initial rehearsal process for the ensemble? What about for Elphaba?
Rehearsing for the ensemble is insane because it’s just you and the dance captains and you have to imagine that all the other cast members are with you. And for the first few weeks you don’t rehearse onstage, so you have to also imagine the set, lights, costumes, etc. It’s all about using your imagination. With Elphaba it was similarly challenging, but what was extra taxing was that I was performing in the ensemble in the evenings and learning Elphaba during the day.
What was your first performance like? How would you describe it in one word?
What was your reaction when you found out you had been moved to standby?
More screaming, celebratory dancing.
What was it like to ride the “Defying Gravity” lift for the first time? Is it difficult to sing while riding it?
The first time I had to ride ‘n’ sing was during my put-in rehearsal, which was four days before my Elphaba debut. It is indeed tricky, because, while flying, you have to stand on this tiny platform with your feet glued together, and you can’t shift your stance. So my trick is to tighten my butt really hard and stay grounded. And, if all else fails, adrenaline kicks in and does most of the work.
What is it like to go on mid-show as opposed to for a full show? Does it make it difficult to really “get into the character”?
Yes, it is much harder, because you have to fill in the early part of Elphaba’s journey in your mind and sensory memory. Definitely more of an uphill battle. But certainly not impossible.
Have you had to change any daily habits to protect your voice and body while in the show?
Yes, definitely. I am way anal-retentive about my vocal regimens these days. Top four daily habits are probably: 1) lots and lots and lots and lots of water (I’m serious: LOTS), 2) use a Neti Pot at least once a day, 3) sleep with a humidifier on, 4) vocalize daily. And then, if I’m feeling under the weather, I supplement my routine with other stuff, like tea with honey, or hydrogen peroxide gargling, stuff like that. Is this TMI?
Have you witnessed – or perhaps been involved in – any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
Oh, hellz yeah. The first time I went on as Elphaba (which was mid-Act I), while crossing upstage to the Defying Gravity lift, I got my broom caught between two set pieces and broke it in half. I performed the song holding just the broom’s tip, which looked like a dustpan duster.
We have been following your blog – “Unnaturally Green” – what have you thought about the fans’ reaction to the blog?
Hey, thanks for the plug! I am psyched that fans are into the blog! I began writing it back in January on my plane ride over to San Francisco from New York City, and it’s chronicled my entire journey in “Wicked” thus far. Honestly, it started as something that was purely for my own amusement — maybe also to amuse the occasional bored friend or family member — but it certainly has caught on in ways I never imagined! I think “Unnaturally Green” appeals to a wide readership because it not only divulges behind-the-scenes tidbits from the Wonderful World of “Wicked,” but also dispels a lot of mystery about what it’s like to work in a professional Broadway company.