Exclusive Interview: Sean McCourt

Today, we are thrilled to share an exculsive interview with Sean McCourt. Mr. McCourt was in the original cast of Wicked as the Witch’s Father. He understudied the roles of the Wizard and Dr. Dillamond, was the full-time Dillamond in 2006/2007. Additionally, he co-created and helps run the Behind the Emerald Curtain tour, a backstage tour of Wicked. Enjoy the interview!

When did you first know you wanted to be in theatre?
I saw Annie when I was 6 years old and my life would never be the same. I knew right away that I wanted to be one of those people up on the stage. I was very disappointed to realize I would never get to play Annie. Alas. At the time, I didn’t think I would actually make a living as an actor. But in the 1980’s I fell in love with Phantom and Les Mis and especialy Chess. That’s when I started taking a good hard look at how people survive as actors.

What was your first professional acting job?
The first time I got paid to be an actor was my freshman year at NYU. I got $50 to do a monologue at a small college upstate. I did “Savage/Love” by Sam Sheperd. I didn’t wear shoes because I thought that made me super cool.

What was your audition process like for Wicked?
I came right out and asked Stephen Schwartz if I could be in a reading of his next show. He said “no.” But then about 6 months later, he called and asked if I wanted to be in the workshop of Wicked. I couldn’t do it because I was doing a summer stock gig at the time. He could not have been cooler about it. I couldn’t believe I was saying “no” to Stephen Schwartz. Then when Wicked auditions came up, I couldn’t get my agents to get me an audition. So I called Stephen again and he said “sure.” I also happened to be working with Joe Mantello at Lincoln Center at the time, so everything was lining up beautifully. I sang a Bob James song called “Celebrate Me Home.” Then I came back and danced for Wayne Cilento. I had no dance experience, so I just did my best. I didn’t hurt anyone, so I guess they figured I was safe. Then I read the Wizard scenes and the Dillamond scenes since I was being considered for the understudy to both.

What was it like being in the original cast?
Being in the original cast of anything is a thrill. It is also scary because you just have no idea how people will receive the show. You never know if it will work. I had done plenty of shows before that that just didn’t get the kind of attention Wicked did. My wife and I were living in a small one-bedroom with our first daughter at the time and we used to say “If Wicked’s a hit, then we’ll move out of here.” Eventually, we started saying “If Wicked’s a hit…” about just about everything. The first time I really had a feeling that we were going to be a hit was when the curtain went out on the opening night in San Francisco. The audience went nuts before we even started singing.

Which of the characters you played or understudied was your favorite?
I loved playing the Wizard the most. I got an opportunity that few understudies get when Joel Gray left. I actually got to play the role for 6 straight weeks. That’s longer than most shows ever run, so I have always felt like I really got to play the role, not just understudy.

What was your favorite scene to perform?
My favorite scene was the one going into Wonderful between Elphaba and the Wizard.

How did you react when you were promoted to principle Dr. Dillamond?
I was thrilled when Joe Mantello agreed I should play Dillamond. Once I found out Bill Youmans was leaving, I emailed Joe. I thought “what the heck, it can’t hurt to ask.” And it never does…

How did the Behind the Emerald Curtain tour come about?
Tony Galde and I dreamed up Behind the Emerald Curtain after the first year of Wicked. We approached Marc Platt with the idea and he asked one simple question. “Has any other show done this?” When we said “No,” he immediately replied, “Then let’s do it.”

Are there any funny blooper stories from Wicked that you’d like to share?
There was a night in San Francisco when my voice completely blew out in the opening number. I was supposed to sing “It’s obsceeeene!” But it came out like some horrible dying pig sound. I didn’t want to stop, so I just drove it harder and harder through the note, which made it immeasurably worse. The rear doors to the theatre flew open because one of the swings had to run out into the lobby to laugh. He ran into Joe Mantello who simply asked “Was that Sean?”

Do you have any dream roles?
Someday I’d sure like to play Javert.

What advice would you give to aspring performers?
Go for it. Be in everything you can be in. Be the one who volunteers to read aloud in class. Run for student council so you can learn to give a speech. Give the prayer at a family dinner. Play the lead in one show and the third greaser from the left in another. It really doesn’t matter. Every time you stand in front of an audience you will learn something. School is great. Learn your theatre history, learn the different techniques and jargon, and study your craft. But in the end the only way to really grasp those concepts in your body is to work them out in front of an audience. And whenever you get the chance to fail spectacularly in front of an audience, do so. That is your greatest teacher. I never missed “It’s obsceeeene” again.

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