Today, we are excited to share an exclusive interview with Rick Desloge. Mr. Desloge is in the ensemble of the First National Touring production and understudies the role of Boq. Check out his interview below!
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
Like many other aspiring performers, my first job was working in summer stock. Right around spring break of my freshman year at Indiana, I submitted a video audition to the Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI. A few weeks later, they called and offered me a summer apprenticeship. I did three shows that summer, Guys and Dolls, Beauty and the Beast, and Aida. Although most of our days were at least twelve hours and I think we had four days off the entire summer, I learned so much about every aspect of live theatre production. I took from the experience a HUGE appreciation for the opportunity to perform where you don’t have to clean toilets, focus lights, or stitch costumes. I mean, who doesn’t love cleaning toilets, but I’d much rather be onstage.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked”? How long was the audition process, and what did you have to do?
I originally auditioned for Wicked at an Equity Chorus Call in early August 2010. About three weeks later, I was called in to audition for an immediate replacement. Two days later, I came in and sang 16 bars of “Take a Chance on Me” and performed all of the Boq sides. Dominic Amendum (music director) and Paul Dobie (assistant director) gave a couple pieces of direction, and then they asked me to come back that afternoon to dance. After a really informal dance callback, my phone rang 30 minutes later. I left the next week for Boston to join the cast!
What was your first performance like in the ensemble like? How did you feel throughout the show?
I remember feeling so ready to get into the show during my rehearsal process, but I’d had minimal rehearsal with actual people to work off of, just with our dance captain, Phillip Dean Lightstone. So that was sort of a whirlwind – figuring out spacing, hitting marks, making sure to sing the right dynamics, etc. I’m not exactly sure what happened on stage, but thankfully nothing went terribly wrong. This show is so huge – the closest feeling I’ve had to Wicked is performing in operas at IU. Both Wicked and IU’s operas share this sort of elevated, grandiose, uniquely special feeling.
What was your first performance as Boq like?
Much like my first show in the ensemble, my first performance as Boq was a whirlwind. When the show ended I didn’t really have any idea whether or not I was even good! In my experience, our company does a fantastic job at making sure understudies are fully prepared and ready to go. I’d had a full rehearsal with Paul Dobie, our assistant director, so I spent most of the show trying to incorporate his notes into my performance and just live in specificity.
What is your favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble and as Boq?
It sounds so cliché, but I really do love all of the show. There is an energy and excitement in the ensemble that (hopefully) helps set an atmosphere and tell the story throughout the while show – so I try to live in that pocket of energy whenever I’m onstage. If I suppose the highlights of my ensemble track would be Averick and Witchhunters.
I really like Boq’s act two – we see a lot of development in him in a relatively short amount of stage time, so I love the challenge of taking him through the governor’s mansion scene and into Witchhunters, which incidentally, is my most challenging part of performing Boq. Once the mob gets going with the noise, it’s actually really difficult to hear the vocal entrances with orchestra!
What is it like to be transformed into the tin man? How much time and makeup does that take?
It’s a pretty rad three step process: First, you glue the nose and chin prosthetics to your face and paint silver. Next, you get the tin man hair and hat. Finally, you put on the costume itself. The whole thing takes maybe 15 minutes. The makeup is completely water based, so that comes right off in the shower (yes, you get to take a shower!) and the glue from the prosthetics wipes off with a special remover.
Have you had to change any daily habits to protect your voice and body while in the show?
I try to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, so I haven’t had to change much to perform in Wicked.
How do you enjoy touring? Do you have time to check out the sights and attractions in each city? What do you do about food?
I do enjoy touring. It’s really refreshing for the show to have a new energy every city. It keeps things interesting and since this particular production typically plays cities for four weeks or more, you get to experience life in places you might never otherwise get to live. I try to check out the highlights of each city and soak up as much as I can while still leading my everyday life.
The only time food is an issue is when the only reasonable housing options are living out of a hotel room. In that case, I break out the hot plate and George Foreman and see what the master chef can whip up.
Have you witnessed – or perhaps been involved in – any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
A running joke in our company is that you are not a real cast member until you have fallen onstage. I officially joined the cast my second show on as Boq during the “just a mere munchkin” speech. I was mid line when I totally bit off of the deck and onto the cogs that overhang the pit. Both the cast and the audience breathed a collective “ooooh” and the scene went on…
I will say it’s funny how when you do a show so many times the little bloopers don’t really seem to be that big of a deal. You just take what you are given and keep moving forward with the story!
Could you ever see yourself playing any of the other male characters in “Wicked”?
Given my size, I’m kind of pigeon-holed into either playing or covering Boq. Maybe in 40 years they will give me a shot at the Wizard, but until then I’m happy where I am now.
What, for you, are the best and worst parts of being in a smash-hit show like “Wicked”?
Other than being blessed with a great job, Wicked is a really great story to tell. It appeals to all sort of people, and can be as surface or as deep as you choose to make it. We routinely play too sold out houses and are treated really well by both the company and fans. Since the show has been running successfully for the better part of a decade, the creative team knows exactly what they need from each part, which streamlines the creative process and allows the same product to appear onstage in every company.
With an up-and-running show like “Wicked”, how often do you rehearse as a company?
We will typically rehearse as a company whenever someone new comes into the show, which is about every four to six weeks or so. This usually consists of an understudy rehearsal and a put in. Occasionally, we have necessary vocal or dance cleanups to maintain consistency.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to one day perform?
I would love to tackle Frankie Valli someday, but in a perfect world I could collaborate with a creative team to create a character from the ground up in a new production. I got to do this once, in the regional premiere of “Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure,” and found the process really rewarding.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
It is really important to always remain positive and upbeat about things. Entering the business can be a daunting transition because unlike other industries where hard work usually leads to success, this isn’t always the case with the entertainment industry. Remember that in a large market like New York or LA, all of the performers going in for projects like Wicked are really talented and usually capable of doing the part. So set yourself apart by bringing your gifts to your work. Create, live in specificity, and trust that it is good enough. If you are anything like me, the biggest obstacle towards getting where you want to be is yourself, so stay out of your own way. Stay positive and prepared for anything, and hopefully you’ll find yourself in the right place at the right time.