Today, we are pleased to present an Exclusive Interview with Caroline Bowman. Ms. Bowman currently is in the ensemble and an understudy for Elphaba on Broadway. Among her credits, she previously appeared as The Lady of the Lake on tour in SPAMALOT. For more information about Caroine Bowman, visit www.carolinebowman.net, and follow her on Twitter @CarolineVBowman.
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
I started working professionally when I was Sixteen at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland. My first job was the swing in GREASE. I grew up performing in this traveling performance group called the Young Columbians, and Toby herself was the head of the group and she is really into giving her kids a chance to work professionally in the field to see if we could cut it. When I started working there, I had to juggle going to high school from 7:15-2:15, the school musical rehearsal from about 2:15- 5:00, and then running to Toby’s from about 6-11. So, from a very early age I had to learn discipline, time management, and the art of being a professional in this business.
How did you come to audition for WICKED? How long was the audition process, and what did you have to do?
I was very lucky and in the right place at the right time when this breakdown came out. I moved to New York about three weeks before this audition took place. I had no agent or representation, and I was just kind of figuring out what I was going to do to keep busy and start getting myself out there. I was doing personal agent submissions daily and going to every audition there was. I also enrolled in a class. I had my sights set on WICKED for a long time, and so I tried to audition for everything that was going on at Bernard Telsey casting, even if I wasn’t completely right for it. It turns out from going to those auditions that I was somehow remembered, and they called me directly when the Elphaba Understudy slot opened up. The audition was on October 19, and then I had a callback the next day for creatives, and then I had a dance callback on Friday October 21 and about thirty minutes after my audition I was cast in my first Broadway musical.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
Well…my mother was with me coincidentally. She is an actor as well and she came up to the city to audition and hang out with me. We were walking down the street when I received the call and I started crying, laughing, screaming, and I fell to the ground in midtown. There are no words to describe the way I felt. I was truly out of body and totally dreamy. I still can’t believe I got that call….am I dreaming right now? I have daily pinching sessions with myself.
How long was your initial rehearsal process for the show? What was it like?
I rehearsed for a little over two weeks for this show. I rehearsed with usually one dance captain, occasionally two. It’s a weird process being a replacement, because you really have no time with the cast until you are actually in the show. I had to learn the show solo and pretend people were around me…Note: Having space awareness with invisible people that you don’t know yet is really hard, but I am always up for a good challenge, after I got over the initial shock and fear. At first, I literally went home and cried in my bed to my mom on the phone…thinking they made a mistake casting me and that I would never be able to do it. Quickly, I got over being a baby, sucked it up, and really let the dance captains help me. It truly ended up being a very chill relaxing rehearsal process with them. I also have the best dance captains ever…so there’s that…Then came the Elphaba rehearsal…
What was your first performance in the ensemble like? How did you feel throughout the show? What about your first performance as Elphaba?
My first performance was a blur, and all I really remember is all my mistakes I made that I wanted to fix. This was my Broadway debut, and it was the show I had been waiting my whole life to get to, so I felt a little pressure. I felt crazy throughout the show. I was just nervous that I would mess something up really bad. The reason I was so nervous was because I had had only one run through in costume with the cast before I was on for real. That was without lights, full props, or all the sets coming in and out. So the first time I had everything was my first night on Broadway. Exciting, surreal, and very nerve-racking all at the same time.
My first time on as Elphaba was a different story. I went on twice on March 3rd  and that was the last time I’ve been on. I was very well rehearsed and really ready to go on. My stage manager is very good about giving us as much time as possible to really practice and feel comfortable. Plus, I’m a bit of a dork so I practiced lines all the time, made a color coded Elphaba track sheet, and there are times in my ensemble track where I go to the stage early just to watch her everyday. My first performance I felt like I was on a cloud. Everything felt like it wasn’t actually happening. The whole cast was on my side and I felt a lot of love coming at me in all directions. That made it so much easier to feel relaxed. I really found a very peaceful place throughout the performance, maybe because I knew if I started thinking about how huge of a deal it really was, I would have freaked out and pooped on stage. My second show was awesome because during my first show, my stage manager actually called my Mom to tell her that I would be on at night. So my Mom and Dad and most of my family made it up to see my night show. My best friends were in the front row, and even my high school drama teacher made it up [to the performance]. It was literally the best day of my life.
What is your favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble? As Elphaba?
I am in love with the “Dancing Through Life” sections. I love the courtyard and into the Ozdust. I have so much fun with the dances and I love being a student at Shiz.
For Elphaba, I feel like I haven’t played the role enough to really have a favorite part. I’m in love with the part of Elphaba, so taking her whole journey is quite a gift. I guess if I had to choose it would be “No Good Deed” because it’s really challenging to do and it’s really when you see Elphaba going crazy and dealing with all these built up emotions that lead her to be wicked.
What is the hardest part of playing Elphaba for you?
I think right now because I don’t get to play the role too often, the hardest part is stamina. You really learn how to pace yourself if you are blessed with getting to do it everyday. But I don’t know how it feels all the time to do it full out in costume, and it’s tricky as an understudy to pace yourself when you are just so excited to be doing it. Jackie Burns [current Broadway Elphaba] is a goddess and I learn a lot from watching her do it. She certainly figured out how to play this doozy of a role 8 times a week.
Have you had to change any daily habits to protect your voice and body while in the show?
It’s not really a change because I already was in a good routine, but I warm up my voice for about 15- 20 minutes before every show. I work out very regularly, and I stretch before every show to make sure I’m loose.
Have you witnessed – or perhaps been involved in – any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
Hmmmmm…well I have fallen a couple times, but that’s pretty typical of me. Our show runs pretty smooth all the time, so not too many bloopers have happened onstage since I’ve been involved with “Wicked.” We have a lot of fun backstage and in the dressing rooms. We’re all pretty fun and weird so it keeps things interesting.
How often do you have to rehearse the show?
We rehearse the show all the time. One week I might have understudy rehearsal and, we will have dance or vocal cleanup rehearsal the next next week. It’s more often than not that I will have rehearsal. They are really good about keeping the show clean and fresh. Perhaps, that’s why it’s lasting so long? Could it be?
We know you toured nationally with SPAMALOT – do you prefer touring or staying put in one city? Why? What were some of your favorite cities?
Goodness, well there are certainly perks of both. I’m a homebody and I like to lay down roots, so being in one place has been really nice. But you also get used to touring when you are out there for eleven months. You figure out how to live on tour and what works for you. Touring taught me how to stay healthy and it taught me what my body needed to be to perform to the best of my ability eight times a week. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Some of my favorite cities were Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans, New Haven, and Thousand Oaks.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to one day perform?
Well…duh…Elphaba. I have a lot of roles I’d like to play, but if I were to name another one off the bat it would be Jo in LITTLE WOMEN. I’m in love with that book and story and I would love to be a part of the March family .
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
1. You are never done learning. Take every opportunity as an experience to grow and learn. Take classes forever.
2. Don’t forget why you are choosing to be a performer.
3. You will come across people that will try to bring you down or bring negativity in your life, brush it off and move on.
4. There is only one you, so don’t try to be anyone else when you walk into a room. Be yourself because that is enough.
5. You will face rejection. It’s inevitable. You get ONE day to cry and be upset about not getting a job. Then, dust yourself off and try again….yes I’m a dork.
6. You don’t have to be on Broadway to be successful in this business. I have friends who are performers all over the place and using their talents in different ways! Be creative!
7. Be happy for people. If you put goodness out there, it will come back to you.