Today, we have an amazing exclusive interview with Natalie Daradich. Ms. Daradich portrayed Glinda on the 2nd National Tour of “Wicked” directly after standing by for Glinda in the San Francisco and Los Angeles productions. Before this, she was a swing, ensemble member, and understudy for Glinda and Nessarose in the Los Angeles producton. Read her thoughts below!
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
My first professional job was The King & I. It was a regional production in Canada and I was lucky to book it while I was finishing my last year in college. So I graduated and went straight there. I auditioned along with with countless other girls but they needed someone to sing a high D for the end of Act One so I got lucky. I was one of the King’s many wives. It was a great experience. I dare you to not hum those tunes on the way out. I mostly did a lot of kneeling and since there are lots of kids in the show, a whole lot of baby sitting…..ONSTAGE! Ha! But there is so much to learn when you’re working with experienced actors. I would spend a lot of my free rehearsal time watching the principals work. And I learned that you don’t have to be the one in the spotlight to enjoy what you do and make a difference in the production. I’m also betting you’re thinking “King & I, but she’s not Asian…???” You are not wrong. I had red hair and I looked ridiculous. But my family saw it and they were proud….or they were just happy to visit in a nice beach town. Either way it was a fun summer.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked”? How long was the audition process, and what did you have to do? What was your original audition song?
I originally auditioned for Wicked in January of 2006. I drove from Toronto to Chicago for an open singer’s audition. I got there early, put in my name and waited. By the time they got the ladies in the afternoon they had cut the auditions to 8 bars of music. So I figured the best thing I could do with that was sing the end of my song…Vanilla Ice Cream from She Loves Me…and hang on to that last note and hope they were impressed. Ha! They said “Thank You” and sent me on my way. I was pretty disappointed and started walking back to the car. Then I got a phone call telling me that they were trying to find me to invite me to the movement call the next day. The next day went well and I was told I was in the file as a Glinda cover and if there ever was a spot that was right for me they would call. About two months later they flew me to New York to see how well I could handle the actual dancer’s call. I survived that….I think. And then I sang for the Music Supervisor and team. I sang the Glinda and Nessa material and they seemed happy and sent me on my way. Then about seven months later my agent got a phone call from the Casting Director telling me that although they didn’t have an understudy to offer me they wondered if I was interested in be a swing in the brand new LA company. WHAT? YESSSSS! I may have cried for an hour and called my entire family. Then about a month before I started auditions they told me that they wanted me to cover Nessa. Again….YESSSSS! It was a crazy and exciting time. It’s the kind of job an actor dreams of and I honestly couldn’t believe I was getting a chance to do it.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
Like I said I was crazy excited! Especially being from Canada and taking a chance of driving 8 hours to sing for 30 seconds, it was pretty unbelievable. I still try to remind myself that even though it’s not the easiest path, if the long shot is what you want your life to be then you have to go for it. Take a chance. Believe in yourself. As long as you do your best every day eventually it will pay off.
Who was the first person you told that you had been cast? What was his/her reaction?
Of course the very first phone call was to my parents. Especially my Dad. I’m very lucky to have parents who support what I’ve chosen to do for a living. I think my Mom used to be a little nervous of the uncertainty of this career path but after I managed to support myself for the first five years after graduating she felt more comfortable and she loves to brag now. My Dad on the other hand was all about making this happen. He drove me an hour away from Toronto for singing lessons every Sunday. He took me to Voice Competition after Voice Competition…even critiquing the other singers. Haha! He drove me to my first day of college when I started to chicken out and he took me to my first big audition for Phantom of the Opera. I was 19 and terrified and I managed to get a call back. And of course he said he knew I would. So they were my first call. And of course my Dad went nuts. It was an awesome feeling getting to tell them because with a career like this you’re not the only one making sacrifices and suffering through really low budget bad musicals. Your family has to sit and watch them too. ps….they LOVE Wicked. I’m betting my Mom has seen it about 11 or 12 times.
We seem to find that each swing has a slightly different rehearsal process. What was yours like?
I had an amazing time learning to be a swing. I’m a pretty organized person and had been an understudy many times before that so it was a good fit for my brain. I was also really lucky that the other two female swings had already done the show for two years and gave me tips and tricks of the trade. I had diagrams of the stage where I would fill in main formations with ALL the cast members so I would know who I should be next to when I was on for one of my tracks. I also used to ipod record rehearsals and say the person’s track along with the music so I would know how to write down the most specific things that would help me. At first it was a little overwhelming because you don’t know the show at all. But once you learn one or two tracks and get the gist of the what’s happening on stage it became like a mathematical equation. I really loved it. And I loved being someone different all the time. I was also a busy swing so that might be why I loved it so much. I was in the show 6-8 times a week, sometimes performing combo tracks. Meaning I would mesh together two (even three) tracks at a time. The mid show replacement is also entertaining. I remember my last week being a swing and one of our ladies had hurt herself in the opening and I was sitting downstairs eating Subway. They called me up to the stage and she kept saying she wasn’t sure she wanted to call out yet. Show people are tough cookies! It was one of the two friends so they wanted me to stay upstairs and wait. Eden is singing Wizard & I and my poor castmate decides halfway through she can’t do anymore. We have about two maybe three minutes to make the change. You can imagine how crazy it was. The costume department came running with my clothes, I’m pulling off my jeans and sneakers in the girl’s gondola. The hair department is running to the basement to find my wig and the sound department is trying to get me a microphone. IN LESS THAN THREE MINUTES! I made the ensemble entrance for Loathing with one boot undone, the top two buttons of my shirt askew, my own hair and a microphone wrapped around my ponytail and taped to my forehead. And frankly I looked good. Hahaha! Doctor Dillamond may have laughed when he went to spit on me. And a lot of my castmates loved my new wig. Yep. Being a swing is exciting! And I will always understand and appreciate how hard their jobs are.
What was your first performance like? What track were you in? How did you feel throughout the show?
My first performance was the weekend we opened in LA. I performed the midwife track so it was a nice, not super overwhelming way to debut. Although it still felt like being shot out of a cannon. I had never even stepped onstage at the Pantages so when the door opened and I walked out of the dark and into the light it was overwhelming. I also had hooves on my hand and a baby I was praying I wouldn’t throw into the audience. My castmates were all smiling at me when I came out so that made it pretty amazing too. Then I had about 30 minutes to sit and wait and hope I didn’t destroy One Short Day. After that it was all good. And people always said they loved when I was the crazy screaming witch hunter. Frankly I loved it too.
How did your promotion as an understudy for Glinda come about?
When the Glinda Understudy opened in my own company I was flown to New York to sing for Stephen Schwartz and Joe Mantello and the rest of the team. I sang Popular and the Opening of the show and got a phone call on my way back to LA. I was very lucky that Wicked was not only willing to trust me with such a great understudy but that they were willing to lose a swing as well. Swings are always difficult to replace and require way more rehearsal time than an ensemble track.
What was your favorite part of playing Nessarose? Glinda?
So hard to choose! I loved being Nessa. It’s such a great role. So much hope and excitement in the first act and then a complete turn around in the second. The ensemble used to play with me in Dancing Through Life and it always made me smile but I would have to say Governor’s Mansion. I love the power in the moment where she is grieving the fact that now that she can walk (the one thing she thought was keeping Boq from falling in love with her) it still didn’t make any difference. I loved feeling the full range of emotion walking to the dressing table in agony and feeling it turn to rage when he says that he’s always been in love with Glinda. Aaaaah chills! It’s so much fun to be an actor!
And as for Glinda…waaaay too hard to choose. It depended on the day and how I was feeling a little bit. I always stick to telling the story as honestly as possible. But I do think your mood can add to the character in a positive way. If I was feeling particularly goofy I would let it spill into Popular and Loathing. If I was feeling really homesick I would sing the heck out of Thank Goodness. After I lost someone very important to me For Good was particularly emotional. It was a huge learning experience telling such a beautiful journey so I guess that would be my favorite part.
How did you feel when you were offered the role of Glinda full-time on the role?
I felt like I did when I was offered Wicked in the first place times 1000. In fact I didn’t understand what I was being asked to do. I thought it was awesome that they trusted me enough to do the Dayton stop on the 2NT. I thought I was covering a medical leave or vacation. I didn’t understand I was being offered the role until my agent explained again. Hahaha! I was sitting in an airport waiting to fly back to San Francisco and I was alone at the gate and just shocked. It was so weird going to work that night and not being able to tell anyone. Since casting is up to the company to decide when they release information you keep it to yourself until they say it’s ok to tell. My castmates in SF didn’t know I was leaving until two or three weeks before I left. I was selling my furniture in secret and getting ready for one of the biggest adventures of my life. I had also never toured so I had no idea what that would be like. I still sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to have travelled all over the US and Canada with such an amazing show. I never would have imagined it in my wildest dreams.
What was it like to play Glinda alongside so many different ladies as Elphaba? Was there one you particularly connected well with?
I am so lucky to have gotten to do the show with so many different ladies. Let’s see…Caissie Levy, Teal Wicks, Vicki Noon, Angel Reda, Meredith Kaye Clark, Marcie Dodd, Anne Brummel, Christine Dwyer and Laurel Harris.
I will always cherish that first show since Caissie was so kind and helpful. Also we’re the only Canadian pair to do the show. But I’ve done the show most with Vicki, Anne, Christine and Teal. They each have such different shows and talents that it’s apples and oranges. I always felt the chemistry with them because we spent so much time together onstage and off. It helps when you’re great friends away from the show and I will consider these ladies family forever. I think I’m fortunate that I can actually pick that many ladies that I loved being onstage with. I would never pick a fave Elphie because I loved torturing them all in Popular equally. I especially loved each of their versions of my laugh. Ha!