Today, we are excited to share a second exclusive interview with Kristine Reese. Ms. Reese portrayed the role of Nessarose in both the first and second national tours and was a swing an understudy for the role of Nessarose in the 1st National Tour. We spoke with Ms. Reese on the subject of bloopers occurring in live performances of “Wicked”. Read the beginning of our conversation below!
Kristine Reese [KR]: My first one is my favorite one, and I think I mentioned this in my interview with you before, but I just think it’s so great that I should just start with it, and it’s the Katie Rose Clarke wig falling off story.
Isaac Evans [IE]: Oh, I love that one.
KR: Right, so I was on for…I think one of the Glinda understudies or something, I can’t remember so I had a really good view of it; this was when I was swinging and she’s in the bubble and she leans forward and her wig falls off. You know, that change is really fast, and I don’t think they pin it down sometimes.
KR: And she leans over and it falls into her hand, it couldn’t have been planned more perfectly, and she just put it back on her head, except when she put it back on her head, she put it on backwards. And then, of course, the whole audience erupted with laughter and she’s so funny, and she’s so good that she actually made it work and then I can’t remember what she said now, but it was hysterical, and she kept trying to fix it. It was SO funny. The audience just stopped and they were just laughing, and we were laughing, and it was one of those rare moments where everyone knew what was going on and didn’t care.
IE: Yeah, I love how the audiences tend to bust out into applause when things like that happen.
KR: Exactly. Because I was in the wheelchair, and so many, so many times, things went wrong. Some of them weren’t even funny, and some I was genuinely upset about.
IE: I’m sure.
KR: Yeah, I told you the story about Ted and how the wheel came off. There’s the four wheels, and inside the wheel, there’s another wheel on the front, and there’s three different wheelchairs, so the one you see in the first scene and the one you see in “Dancing Through Life” are two different chairs, and one of them weighs about 200 pounds and the other one is light, so the first scene’s is really heavy and it’s really hard to control, but then the second one is the one that you’re really getting around in, so sometimes, because you’re constantly getting it against your hands, you have callouses and splinters and stuff, and that happens all the time.
But this one time, the outside of the wheel had come off, so I couldn’t move it forward or back, or anything; it was basically locked. So, we’re just sitting back there behind all the dancers and Ted kind of looks at me and he’s like, “I don’t know what to do” and I’m like, “I don’t either”, so he just takes it and brings it into the wing, and I was like, “Oh…okay?” so I didn’t know what to do – it was just one of those moments. I had a couple of moments like that: the wheel coming off.
Then, one of the times when Zach Hanna went on for Boq as an understudy, because those guys don’t get as much of a chance to work with it as understudies, the choreography with it, he basically popped a wheelie going downstage towards the audience, really close to the conductor’s head. I can’t remember what city we were in…it was towards the end of 2009…so maybe like Wichita or somewhere like that? And so the lip of the stage is where basically the conductor’s face is – right up against the edge of the stage, because the pit is completely covered, and so Zach pops a wheelie and flips the wheelchair up and it’s right in the conductor’s face, and I completely freaked out, because I’m thinking, “I’m going into the pit…I’m hitting the conductor in the face”, and you know you’re supposed to be having a fun moment with this guy you think you’re in love with, and I totally didn’t want to, but I completely broke character, and I’m just, “Oh my gosh!”
IE: That’s great!
KR: And it was kind of …stuck, so we couldn’t get it unstuck, so I was stuck in a wheelie popped up position and trying to unlock it so we can go backwards with all the dancers, so that was pretty bad.
IE: Yeah, that’s a mess.
KR: I’m trying to look at the other wheelchair ones I had. Oh! I mean, the magic doesn’t work like…a lot.
IE: I’ve heard it can be kind of awful.
KR: Yeah, it happened to me enough times to where I finally got used to what I would do if that happened, but the first time it happened I was confused, slash mad, slash everyone was looking at me like, “what the heck happened?” But then, I got to the point that I’d go onstage, and if it wasn’t going to work, they’d say, “No, it’s not going to work, so you have to make it work, basically. You have to make it look like it’s going to happen even though it’s not going to happen.”
IE: So you’d know in advance that it wasn’t going to happen?
KR: Well, not all the time – sometimes it just fails for whatever reason – signal, you know, it’s all wirelessly done, but sometimes they know – they’d come up to me right before I’d come onstage before “This is my sister Nessarose” and the tech guy would look at me and say, or a stage manager, “The wheelchair is not going to be magical.” So basically, there’s some musical cue, and they don’t have time to tell Marcie [Dodd] or whoever, so you basically have to make it convincing with the music and the lights that somehow the audience should pay attention to this moment for some reason.
And so the whole time I’m sitting in the chair I’m thinking, “What am I gonna do? What if it sucks? Like, what if Marcie doesn’t understand and doesn’t know what to do, or whoever.” It happened with Donna [Vivino], it happened with Marcie, it happened with Anne [Brummel], it happened so many times, and no one else in the cast knows until that moment, and so they’re yelling and freaking out, pretending that it’s happening and secretly they’re wondering, “what’s going on?” And it’s mostly just up to the person – I’m sure it’s happened to Michelle [London] too and it sucks and it’s just like, “Great…”. It’s just the magic of live theatre, especially with the flying and the bubble, and those things, like you can’t account for that when it doesn’t happen, so when it doesn’t, it’s just so hard to make up for that without the technology because it’s such an integral part of the show because it’s about magic and whatever.
IE: Yeah, for real.
KR: Then the bubble, there’s so many times the bubble hasn’t worked, and in the 2nd National, the statue is also a big one. There were a couple of cities last year where the bubble didn’t work so you know we’re all saying, “It’s Glinda!” and then she comes out on stage not as she normally would, or she goes to try and get back up in the bubble after she comes down the first time, and she tries to go back up and it doesn’t move and it’s just like stuck there dangling down.
IE: Kind of anticlimactic…
KR: Yeah, so you have to keep doing the staging because the music and the show is going on, but it’s like, “What are we gonna do?” because Glinda’s just sitting in the middle of the stage, and the thing is, Glinda’s supposed to be like this queen – we’re not supposed to be close to her or touch her, and she’s royalty or something, but we’re doing our blocking around her like she’s not a big deal. [laughs]
Keep watching for more parts of this interview soon to come!