Today, we are thrilled to share an exclusive interview with Billy Harrigan Tighe, who currently is in the ensemble of the 2nd National Tour and is one of the understudies for the role of Fiyero. His wife, Kristine Reese, has also performed with the 1st and 2nd National Tour as Nessarose and completed an interview with our site earlier this year. Enjoy Billy’s interview below!
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
My first professional acting job as an equity member was working at the St. Louis MUNY performing in Jesus Christ Superstar and MAME. The summer began with Kristine and I performing Footloose at LaComedia Dinner Theatre as Ren & Ariel and ended with me as a dancing Leper in JCS at MUNY. I would say I played the gamut of characters that year…haha! I carried a lot of responsibility in the few month run of Footloose and learned all about stamina and pacing. Then weeks later stood in the very back of one of the largest theaters in the world hoping someone would even see me amongst all the talent on stage. That summer I had the pleasure of working with so many amazing role rodels like Dee Hoty, Deven May, Eric Kunze and Beth Leavel the year before she won her Tony award for Drowsy Chaperone. I think most importantly I learned the importance of grace, humility and good ole hard work. We all worked constantly putting those shows together in 10 days and its all blood sweat and tears there. Everyone is part of a team, working at the best of their ability at every rehearsal to create a product that looks like it’s been worked on for months. It was amazing to be a part of something where it didn’t matter if you had just earned your equity card or your Tony award, you were there for the same reason and I felt inspired.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be in “Wicked”?
I don’t recall a moment when I realized that I wanted to be in “wicked” but I definitely remember hearing the cast album for the first time. I can admit It was played many times in my car and I sang along to more songs than I would care to admit.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked”? How long was the audition process, and what did you have to do?
The audition was over the course of a week and consisted of two auditions. I received an appointment to be seen early in the week and was asked to prepare the Fiyero scene work and music. I came in and performed the material, worked with the creative team on a few adjustments and then was done for the day. A few days later I was asked to come to the Gershwin to dance for the Creative team. I arrived and was taught some material with the show with one other guy and was done later that afternoon. I found out the same day that I got the job and it turned out Corey who’s currently on Tour 1 was the other guy. So we both lucked out and thankfully both have the same job on different tours.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
I was shocked, thrilled and relieved.
Who was the first person you told that you had been cast? What was his/her reaction?
I was actually with a group of my best friends out to a Mexican dinner. We decided that the audition process had been close enough that we were either going to be celebrating or drowning our sorrows all evening. Thankfully, I got the phone call while we were ordering and it turned out we were celebrating. Everyone was thrilled and it was definitely a memorable evening!
What is your favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble and as Fiyero?
In the ensemble I personally have a bunch of moments I really love doing. All of Shiz is a lot of fun and I think our whole cast loves being crazy and blood thirsty during Witch Hunters. I enjoy being with as many people on stage as possible… just so many people to interact with and feed off of. We have fun! As Fiyero… I would say Dancing Through Life has to be the most fun. It’s the moment he gets to really cut loose and show his swagger.
What is the most difficult part about performing in this show, both in the ensemble and as Fiyero?
As a singer I would say performing this show once isn’t the issue, but doing it eight times a week is extremely exhausting. So pacing is definitely my issue. The show has so much power and range to it that we all want to rip and roar every time but if you don’t know how to conserve its easy to get hurt or tire out by the end of each week. I would say the same goes for Fiyero. Its easy to work really hard during Dancing Through Life and dance feverishly, but it then is difficult to not run out of air. Not doing that number every day makes it hard as an understudy to find a balance that works. Its still something I’m definitely working on!
What do you like and dislike about touring? Do you have much time for sightseeing?
Having just gotten married I seriously dislike not being able to see my wife everyday. Bummer! Its definitely very hard and makes touring tough. As far as sightseeing goes it all depends on the city. The cast kinda goes in waves. Sometimes we’re all very active and constantly out and about doing tons of crazy things, but other cities we lay low and act like hermits. Its hard to predict which cities will have which reaction, but we do get out quite a bit and I have happily seen a lot of the country so far!
Have you had to change any daily habits to protect your voice and body while in the show?
Sleep. A good night’s sleep can be a real life saver. I try to keep my “fun” time for during the day and keep the show and evening after for doing the show and resting for the next day. Physically, I think all the boys in the dressing room can attest to how often they see me in a hand stand. For me, nothing gets the blood flowing like being upside down a couple minutes before every show. It’s a habit I’ve done since high school and can’t seem to break. It takes focus to do and it helps me zone in on getting ready
Have you witnessed – or perhaps been involved in – any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
Bloopers in a live stage show… never. Fortunately, nothing too crazy has happened while I’ve been in the company. For me though, the craziest thing that’s happened is the matinee where I had to play the witches father. We found ourselves in quite a pinch one week so I learned the track on Friday for a “just in case scenario” and sure enough the next morning we were out one more guy and I had to play my wife’s father. Very funny… and awkward.
What’s it like to get to share the stage every night with your fiancee?
It’s a true blessing. I watch her show all the time and I’m constantly amazed at how invested she is at doing her absolute best every performance. I’ve seen this show MANY MANY times and I can honestly say the character ark her Nessa has is the best I’ve ever seen. She is truly a master of her craft and we’re lucky to work with such a true professional. Plus I love her, so that’s nice too. We’ve had a lot of fun and it’s great to share the stage with someone you respect and love.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to one day perform?
I would love to originate something. Being a part of a production from the ground up is such a unique experience and I would love to create a character no one’s ever played before.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
-Work hard. Short cuts will only get you so far and you learn more by failing and falling during the process.
-You don’t need to be in a show to perform every day. Some of my best work has honestly been in the shower.
-Ask questions. Every actor has been there and we all have different paths. There is always someone who can help and can mentor you along the way. We can always learn something from each other.