Today, we are excited to share part three of our “Blooper Reel” series 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” last month. Read the third part of our conversation below.
Kristine Reese [KR]: One of my other stories was when we were in one city; on tour, we have keyboard substitutes for keyboard 2, which is played by the associate conductor, so it’s kind of like the part that can be taken out of the equation the easiest, which is I think why they do it. Usually on the Sunday matinee, when the associate conductor is conducting, the keyboard sub will come in. The only person I think it really affects is me as Nessarose or Boq, because it’s the theme in “Wicked Witch of the East”.
Isaac Evans [IE]: I actually think I’ve seen the show once when that part was out, because there was a show I saw where they cut the part right before the scene going into “Dancing Through Life” – is that the same one?
IE: I remember turning to my mom and glancing at her, and she also caught that there was usually another part there. Ah…
KR: You’ll notice it on “stop studying strife”, with the keyboard gliss right after it, “and learn to live the unexamined life” – it’s during that part too. There’s a couple of parts where it just supplements the melody, but in “Wicked Witch of the East”, it’s the dominant piano part in the moment, and that’s covered by keyboard 2, so whenever we had a keyboard sub, I was secretly kind of annoyed because I didn’t know what it was going to sound like, and a lot of times they’d hit the wrong notes, or get the timing wrong.
IE: Oh no!
KR: Well, we were in this one city, and it wasn’t going very well with the keyboard sub, and the conductor came up to me before the show and said, “I’m really really sorry, but just be aware of the keyboard two, I’m really sorry.” So it’s like, “ok…?” So we get to the Governor’s mansion and “Wicked Witch of the East”, and it’s right after Boq says, “You did this for her?!” and he comes up to Nessa and sings, “Nessa, um Nessa, surely now I’ll matter less to you.”, well, he comes up to me, and says, “This changes everything!”, and the keyboard sub was playing something completely and entirely unrecognizable to me, Ted, Marcie, everyone else in the orchestra pit.
IE: [laughs hysterically]
KR: And let me sidetrack by saying that Ted is first of all, one of the nicest, most caring people I’ve ever met; he works SO hard, he is so focused – this is nothing to do with him as a professional, but he completely blanked out. He just looked at me, and they kept playing the music, they didn’t stop, and it’s all vamped, so it’s timed vamps, so it’s not like they can just go back and start over – they were continuing on. He’s staring at me blankly, squeezing my hand, like, “Please help me, what are we going to do?” The audience was missing the plot, and if I just go psycho on him for no reason, they won’t understand why Nessa has a crazy moment, so in my mind, I’m like, “What can I say to just catch us up?” So all of a sudden, I just look at him, and I say, “Glinda!? You like Glinda?!”, and I crossed to the table, and we just kept going on, but then he comes up to me after the scene and says, “Oh my God, Kristine, I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t remember the words!”; he eventually remembered like the last two words, I think it was. He just said, “I was freaking out, I didn’t know what to do.” Then the same exact thing happened to Zach Hanna later for the very same reason, and it was just funny, because it shows how much that piano line can trip people up.
IE: That is pretty bad.
KR: And it’s so tight, that whole scene is so tight, that if you forget a line, or even if somebody jumps another person and messes it up, it can get really messed up.
IE: Yeah, that scene could potentially get thrown really badly.
KR: Yeah! It’s just so hard, there’s so much information that’s happening too, for the plot, and it’s funny now, it’s really funny now, but in that moment we both felt like, “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.” This isn’t to say that those subs can’t play, it’s just the nature of how it is done. We don’t all get to work together enough.
IE: I’m sure!
KR: I’ve worked with a lot of Boqs, and they all are so different.
IE: Yeah, they really are. There’s a lot of variety in that role.
KR: It’s funny too, because it’s so amazing how much that can impact, and rightfully so if you’re acting, but how much the meaning of a line can come up completely different, because the person who’s in front of you, and their energy, it’s interesting. For example, Brad Weinstock, who I loved so much, in fact he was the first person who I performed the role with, and I performed it quite a bit. Then to go from that to Zach, there’s a completely different energy.
IE: I’m sure it is – it’s got to throw you all a little bit.
KR: And Elphaba too; I think I’ve done the show with ten or eleven Elphabas – it’s weird, it’s crazy. You want to be consistent, but at the same time, when it’s three different ones and three different days.
IE: That’s kind of crazy!
KR: Yeah. Another tour mystery/secret, and this actually might be a Broadway thing too, some bubbles come out of the big bubble – actual bubbles. I don’t know what they use to make the bubbles, but it’s some concoction that they have, and then a lot of times when we’re in these cities that are really humid, like St. Louis, Charlotte, you know, Milwaukee when we were there. Very moist and wet theatres.
KR: The bubbles fall on the ground and people slip on them. When I was on tour one it was a joke – “Oh, you joined the company? You’re going to slip…have fun, just wait for it…”, and everyone falls either in “March of the Witch Hunters” or “No One Mourns the Wicked”. Well, this brought the slipping and falling to a whole new level, because everybody was slipping and falling in bubble juice. Literally, Don Richards actually fell kind of badly – it’s actually not funny…but everyone in the company was falling in bubble juice, completely falling on their butts – during the opening number, during a solo. One time, I think Natalie fell and she was like “we were friends at school”, and when Elphaba ran out, she fell. Maybe it was Heléne, I can’t remember who it was, but everyone was wiping out. I hadn’t fallen, because obviously I was in a chair most of the show. One time, and this was with Marcie , there was just a little bit on the floor right in front of where I would get up to start walking in the Governor’s mansion.
IE: Oh no…
KR: So I’m on the ground, and I’m doing this spell, and I cross over to Marcie and start trying to kind of chase after her, and I fell on my knees, and the dress got stuck under my foot somehow, and I couldn’t get up again, and then I fell on my face, and she paused a minute, and I think she was thinking, “Should I help her?” But later on, when I asked her, she said, “I thought you were acting…”
IE: Well that’s good at least.
KR: I guess the audience must have thought I was really realistic, falling all over the place. There was a huge puddle where I had fallen and I had ripped a hole in the bottom of the skirt with my shoe where I was trying to get up. It’s really funny, because I walk in the show for like 2.5 seconds, and even I managed to fall.
IE: So was the stage completely soaked in it or something?
KR: Well, I’m sure that since you’ve been on the stage, you’ll understand, but there’s those grates where the mist comes out?
KR: Little pockets of water kind of leak out of the sides of that, and then gets with what is left over from the bubble juice. It kind of depends on the humidity of the city. It’s a perfect combination of things that has to happen to create that moisture with that much sticky solution, but it can be bad.
IE: I’m sure. That’s kind of crazy.
KR: Talk about desperation on the part of Nessarose; she can’t even get up! It was actually really painful though…
IE: So you did kind of hurt yourself too?
KR: Well, I wasn’t out of the show or anything, but I had a nice bruise for a while. It’s what we do – as a swing, I think I fell on my tail bone a couple of times, but with those great big mob coats, there’s a bit more padding!