Today, we have another lovely standby interview, with the incredible Libby Servais of the San Francisco production of the show. Ms. Servais has served as the standby for Glinda in San Francisco since February; before this, she was in the ensemble and understudied the role of Glinda on the 2nd National Tour. She runs a blog called “I Heard it Said…” which can be viewed by clicking the name. Yesterday, we interviewed her castmate, Ms. Felicia Ricci, and the interview can be read by scrolling down the page. Enjoy the interview!
What was your first professional acting job, and what did you learn from it?
Playing Jeanie in “HAIR” was my first professional show while I was in college. It was here that I began viewing acting as a career and not just a hobby. “HAIR” changed my life because I was basically a pregnant version of myself so everything was very organic and real. I learned to live in the moment and to keep every show fresh. I moved to NYC right after I graduated college and was cast in a new musical concert version of Pride and Prejudice. I was so excited because I got my equity card for this and it was my first show in the big apple. The cast was full of Broadway veterans so I learned a lot during rehearsals from simply watching how the pro’s worked.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked” and what was the audition process like? How many times did you have to audition?
My agents called me with an appointment to audition. I was currently rehearsing for Pride and Prejudice so I had to audition during my rehearsal lunch break. I believe I had 2 call backs and a final dance call after that. I remember my agents called me into their office to sign something for the show I was currently working on but once I got to their office, they sat me down and told me they really didn’t have anything for me to sign but they wanted to tell me….. I was cast in WICKED!!!!! I screamed and jumped a mile high into my agents arms and then attacked them with hugs and kisses. It was such a special, unforgettable day for me.
How long and how difficult was the initial rehearsal process for the show?
Because we were opening a brand new company we had about a month of rehearsal in NYC and then 2 weeks of tech rehearsal in Ft. Myers, FL. The rehearsal process was actually one of my favorite memories with Wicked so far because we were all starting fresh together. We would do an intense dance warmup to start our morning rehearsals and I loved how we all bonded during that time. I would go home and rehearse the dances in my apartment after rehearsal because I wanted to memorize everything as fast as possible. My muscles were so sore after the first week from all of the dancing but my body soon adapted. 🙂
Is there a lot of pressure put on you when opening a new production?
I actually felt more excited and blessed for the opportunity to build a new production with what soon became a family to me. There’s something really special about being part of an original company- it sort of bonded us all together- for life. 🙂 It was really awesome to have Joe Mantello at our rehearsals because he was able to answer any questions we may have had regarding the story. That helped us develop specific characters and intentions right from the start.
What was your first show like? What emotions were running through you?
I remember the excitement I felt as soon as the orchestra played the first down beat of the opening. It really hit me that I was performing in WICKED; the first show I ever saw on Broadway. In fact, after I saw WICKED in 2005, I changed my college major to Musical Theatre. It really changed my life. I actually still get flutters every time I hear the first down beat of the show. 🙂 Sometimes as a standby, I go up on the stage deck to watch the opening because it reminds me of how special this show is to me.
What was your favorite costume in the ensemble?
This is a tricky question because I actually have about 5 favorites. When I was in the ensemble I loved my Shiz costume. I wore a Pink French Buree with matching Pink Socks. My character name was Morgan Fifi Upland. I was the foreign exchange student at Shiz University and Galinda’s cousin. I was also in love with my feather ballgown- so glamorous! 🙂
What is your favorite costume as Glinda?
The Bubble gown. It makes me want to laugh, cry and sing high notes. When I tried it on at my final fitting, the wardrobe supervisor, Alyce Gilbert, had me parade through the entire wardrobe studio where everyone began clapping for me and the hard work they’d put into creating the amazing gown. I loved it so much and didn’t want to take it off! It’s essentially the dress I dreamed about wearing when I was little girl. I think I would live in that dress if I could.
How was the initial rehearsal process for Glinda?
My very first rehearsal was with my stage manager, two chairs and a wand. Once all of the understudies (including myself) learned the staging, we began to have run throughs and then a final put-in with costumes. I made my Glinda debut a few days after my put-in rehearsal which I felt very fortunate for.
How was your first performance as Glinda?
It was magical. I remember floating down in the bubble in Norfolk, VA and I had to pinch myself as I saw my reflection in mirrors at the back of the theatre because it felt like a dream. Almost every cast member stopped by my dressing room before the show to say “break a leg” which made me feel so safe and excited to tell the story with them. I remember running out for curtain call and Marcie Dodd lifted me up in the air when we hugged. I loved sharing the stage with her that night.
How did the promotion to standby Glinda in San Francisco come about?
In December, some of the creative team came out to visit the tour in Schenectady, NY and they saw me for the position and then I had a callback in NYC in January just before my birthday. A few days later my agents called me and said “Happy Birthday, Libby- you’re going to San Francisco!!” Woohoo! I will always be so in love with my tour fam and it was heartbreaking to leave them but joining the SF company has been an amazing experience and blessing to me.
How different is the show in San Francisco than the 2nd National Tour? Did you have to rehearse a lot?
There are actually quite a few small differences as far as staging goes but overall it’s pretty similar to the tour. It was definitely strange for me to see different people in the same costumes as the tour cast. It felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me. I came straight from the tour to San Fran and had about 3 rehearsals before I made my SF debut.
Do you have any onstage bloopers or mishaps you’ve been involved in or witnessed you’d like to share?
I’ve swallowed bubbles before which is not the greatest thing while singing the soprano opening of No one Mourns the Wicked. I’ve learned to shoo them away if they are ever getting too close to my face. 🙂 Also, it always makes me giggle inside when someone’s wig falls off. I’ve only seen it happen twice but those were two hilarious moments. I love live theatre! 🙂
Which is more exhausting: all of the dancing and heavy singing of the ensemble or the intensive acting and singing of Glinda?
They are all very demanding roles in the show but for me, Glinda is more tiring because not only is it physically demanding but emotionally as well.
Are there any dream roles you’d like to play one day?
My ultimate dream is to originate a role in a new musical. I must say though, getting to play Glinda is a dream come true for me.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Continue to learn and set goals for yourself. There’s always room for more knowledge and growth as a performer. Know that everyone has a different journey in this profession- you have to figure out what works best for YOU on your journey. The best way to figure that out is to stay focused and faithful with a positive attitude. Nobody likes to work with negative Nellie’s. 🙂 Jealousy, pessimism and hate are unattractive and will only work against you. 🙂