We are pleased to present today’s Exclusive Interview with Jody Gelb. Ms. Gelb appeared in the original Broadway companies of THE WHO’S TOMMY and TITANIC. Additionally, she has performed in straight plays including THE BUDDY SYSTEM and WRONG MOUTAIN. We thank Ms. Gelb for her interview which you can read below!
What was your first professional acting job and how did you land it?
My first professional acting job was at the Cincinnati Playhouse in a new American play called The Buddy System by Jonathan Feldman. I got it because I knew Jonathan from High School and we had acted together in many plays and musicals and also in new plays that he had written so I was very lucky when the Playhouse wanted to produce his original script because he got me the audition since I didn’t have an agent yet. The play starred David Garrison who went on to be one of WICKED’S famous Wizards. David and I also worked in TITANIC together. Sometimes it’s a very small world.
How did you come to audition for WICKED?
My audition for WICKED is another “small world” story. I was in New York City in December of 2008 to rehearse for a 15 year anniversary reunion concert of the original Broadway Company of The Who’s Tommy. We were rehearsing in a studio for a couple of days and then doing one night on Broadway. It was amazing because a lot of us hadn’t seen each other in many years. People now had babies and growing children and there was lots of shrieking and hugging as we arrived at that studio. At one point I was sitting next to Lisa Leguillou who had been the dance captain and also in the ensemble of Tommy. She was now the associate director of all the WICKED productions and had directed it in Australia. She turned to me and knowing that I lived near San Francisco said: We’re coming up to SF in a couple of months. You should audition for Madame Morrible. I nodded. I knew nothing about the role or the show. As soon as I got home from that trip I bought the album to find out what this Morrible character did. Fell in love with what I heard. Eventually had an audition on the Orpheum stage on June 12, 2009. Five months later got a call from NYC that they wanted me to do the role starting in February of 2010. Shock and awe.
What was the rehearsal process like for WICKED?
Rehearsals started on January 19th. I worked with our Production Stage Manager and with understudies and standbys. I also got to work with our associate director on what we call “table work” which is when you sit and just read through the script and talk about character and motivation. You discuss your ideas and it goes back and forth. A great time to make sure you’re on “the same page” about how you see the role.
How was your first performance in WICKED?
My first performance of WICKED was actually fun. I didn’t get too nervous and I felt very ready to begin thanks to all the rehearsals. Working with the company was magical.
What is your favorite part of the show to perform?
Probably my favorite part is doing the Wizard’s Chamber scene when Elphaba’s spell turns them into flying monkeys. The drama of the scene, the musical underscoring, screaming Chistery, fleeing Elphaba all make it very exciting and then I get to climb the tower and deliver the Wicked Witch speech. I also love when I get to scream at Glinda in the other tower scene. The “Now you listen to me Missy” speech. It’s fun to behave badly as Madame Morrible.
Do you have any memorable bloopers that you’d like to share?
Too many bloopers to mention. I’ve gone completely blank a couple of times but you always get quickly rescued by yourself or your scene partner. As long as I don’t fall down I’m happy.
How does performing in a straight play differ performing in a musical?
In a straight play you don’t have to sing with an orchestra. It’s
like papayas and mangos. I am more comfortable telling stories with
words but I also love to sing. The wonderful thing about musicals is
the power of the music that feeds you and feeds the story. You can
change a mood with music without saying one word. I love doing both
kinds of theatre but I will always be cast more often in plays because
I’m more comfortable speaking the story without the pressure of
perfection that you need as a musical singer. I don’t have those kind
What was it like being a part of the original Broadway companies of THE WHO’S TOMMY and TITANIC?
Being a part of the original B’way companies of The Who’s Tommy and
Titanic was very exciting. With Tommy they knew they had just had a
great success at La Jolla Playhouse but I had not done the show there
and it was all new to me. Pete Townshend of The Who was at most of our
rehearsals, a photographer was shooting photos for a book about it,
there were exciting young actors and dancers and it just had a
wonderful energy in the rehearsal room and at all the gatherings that
happen when you’re working on something new and “hot”. Titanic was
brand new so we were dealing with all of the things that happen when
you go straight to Broadway without any time out of town. With the
excitement was a lot of tension and changing of various elements
including songs being cut which meant actors were doing drastically
different roles than they had imagined but for me it was all wonderful
because it was my first job since Tommy and since the birth of my
daughter who had been horribly brain damaged at birth and so here I
was BACK at work and my second daughter had just been born a couple of
months before rehearsals started. I was in heaven.
How does performing in the ensemble differ from performing as a principle character?
It’s better being a principle.
What have been some of your favorite roles?
Two of my favorite roles have been Hesione in HEARTBREAK HOUSE by
G.B. Shaw and Mary L. in THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE by William Saroyan.
What is your dream role?
My dream role would be to play the part of the wife in BRIEF
ENCOUNTER directed by Emma Rice at Kneehigh Theatre.
Do you have any advice for aspiring performers?
To young performers I would say: find good teachers and classes
and if you can go and get a degree at a good theatre school and start
auditioning. Only do it if you have to because most of us don’t make
any money but everybody knows that already.