Today, we are excited to share a fan interview with Mara, a fan of the show who has seen it twelve times between Broadway, the Chicago sit-down, and the national tours. She lives in Arizona and has actually written a sequel to “Wicked”, called “After Wicked”. You can access her fabulous work by clicking here. From that site, you can also follow her work on twitter and on Facebook. Check out her thoughts below!
When was the last time you saw the show and what production?
The last time I saw the show was this past July. It was in East Lansing, Michigan with the 2nd National Tour. We were vacationing in Michigan a few hours away, and our Brazilian exchange student, Leticia, had never seen a professional American musical before. The two of us had also just been in The Wizard of Oz together-she was the Glinda to my “Wicked Witch”-so we thought it would be a lot of fun to take her.
Who is your favorite Elphaba and why?
Hmm. This is a very difficult question, as there are so many facets to Elphaba’s character, and although some actors are great at showing one side of her, others are equally great at showing another side. Still, I think I’ll have to go with Stephanie J. Block, my very first Elphaba. She was the one who made me fall in love with the role, and I forever owe her for that. She was great at portraying many different sides of Elphaba, and her voice is just incredible.
I also have to pay tribute to Idina Menzel. I may have never seen her live, but from listening to the soundtrack, I can tell how amazing she was. She seemed to bring such warmth and compassion to Elphaba, and there was a reason she won the Tony.
Who is your favorite Glinda and why?
I think my favorite, next to Kristin Chenoweth (who, like Idina, I’ve only heard on the soundtrack), would have to be Megan Hilty. She has one of the best senses of comedic timing I’ve ever seen, and she was so great at making Glinda her own. I saw her perform the role twice, and both times were very fresh and different from each other.
One of the things I love so much about Megan’s Glinda is the way she grew from Act One to Act Two. In Act One, she was very self-entitled and spoiled, and she bounced her way through “Popular.” But in Act Two, she took it down a few notches and really made you empathize with her. She grew up so much during the show, and by the end, you trusted her Glinda to lead Oz.
I also love how very different Megan’s Glinda was from Kristin’s. She completely embraced Glinda as a character and totally made Glinda her own.
Who is your favorite Fiyero and why?
My new favorite is my most recent Fiyero, Billy Harrigan Tighe of the 2nd National Tour. I’m very picky about Fiyero’s, as I have a very specific Fiyero in my sequel, but as soon as Billy stepped onstage, it was as though he had jumped right out of my imagination. His Fiyero was so kind and tender, and you could really feel how much he loved Elphaba, but didn’t want to hurt Glinda by choosing Elphaba over her. He was a defined, three-dimensional character in his own right, and he definitely developed Fiyero farther than most Fiyeros I’ve seen. I just love his interpretation. I hope I have a chance to see Billy perform the role again.
Which Elphaba/Glinda pair that you’ve seen do you feel had the best chemistry?
Most of the times I’ve seen Wicked, I’ve had an understudy or standby in one of the lead roles. For that reason, I’ll have to pay tribute to by first “complete” Elphaba/Glinda pair, Kate Reinders and Ana Gasteyer, who I saw twice in the Chicago production. Both had impeccable senses of comedic timing, and Kate’s perkiness was complimented by Ana’s sarcasm. Their “What Is This Feeling” was hilarious, and their “For Good” was equally touching.
What other standouts have you seen in leading roles? (these can be other standouts in the three main leads and/or the other big roles in the show)
The first person who comes to mind is Telly Leung, who I saw several times as Boq in the Chicago cast. His Boq made me completely rethink the role. Telly’s Boq was so kind and so determined to be a good person, and as a result, you really felt for him when he was abused as Nessarose’s servant and eventually became tin. Even during “March of the Witch Hunters,” you could really understand and emphasize with his actions. In that song, his hurt came through more than his anger, and his transition from Munchkin to Tin Man was completely believable. I usually have a hard time reckoning the change in Boq’s personality after his transformation, but with Telly, I understood it.
I also love Rondi Reed, who I saw as Madame Morrible in the Chicago casts. She lit up the stage with her presence, and I was so excited when she later won the Tony Award for August: Osage County. I also loved seeing both John Rubinstein and Ben Vereen as the Wizard; I know their works from the Pippin soundtrack, so seeing them live in another Schwartz show was very exciting.
Have you seen any understudies in the show? If so, what did you enjoy most about their performances?
I’ve seen many, many understudies. In fact, my first ever Glinda was an understudy, Emily Rosek, who I later saw as Glinda again in the Los Angeles production. She was great; though she had Glinda’s perky side down, she was also very down-to-earth, and she didn’t overact the role. I also absolutely adore Lisa Brescia, who I saw as Julia Murney’s standby on Broadway. She was both feisty and gentle, and her presence was just incredible.
I think one of the things I appreciate most about the Wicked understudies and standbys is that they’re given so much creative freedom; they’re really encouraged to explore the world and not just copy the permanent actors in their roles. For that reason, seeing understudies is always fresh and exciting.
We all know that the orchestra plays a huge part of the “Wicked” experience. Has one production’s orchestra stood out to you? If so, which one, and why?
Well, one experience stands out, but not for the experiences you may think. In 2006, when I saw the show in Chicago, I wanted to give the cast a chapter from my Wicked sequel. Unfortunately, it was an evening performance, and we had a long drive ahead of us, so we couldn’t stagedoor. So, during intermission, I went to the orchestra pit and asked one of the orchestra members to give my chapter to the cast. She did, and a few weeks later, I received signed pictures from all of the principals, complimenting me on my story. I later learned that they’d copied the story and had passed it around from dressing room to dressing room. I wish I remembered that orchestra member’s name, because I would love to thank her for her kindness.
Aside from that, I’ve never been dissatisfied with the orchestra. Every time I’ve attended Wicked, the music has given me goose bumps.
If you stagedoor, tell us about your favorite stagedoor experience.
I have a few highlights from different performances:
-The Broadway cast in 2007: I met all of the principles and most of the ensemble members, and I had a little conversation with Lisa Brescia, where I told her that I hoped she would get the role permanently one day, and she was so sweet and appreciative. Kendra Kassebaum was equally kind. The funniest part, though, was my conversation with Sebastian Arcelus, the Fiyero. When I told him that he brought a gentleness to the role, he gave me a funny look and said, “Thanks,” no doubt confused because of my age at the time. Of course, he understood a little better after my mom explained that it was my sixth time seeing the show and that I wasn’t just a thirteen-year-old know-it-all. 😉
-Los Angeles in 2009: I met Emily Rosek, my first Glinda, and Derrick Williams, my first Fiyero, which was very special.
-My last time seeing it in East Lansing, Michigan: There was a very small crowd stagedooring, so we really had a chance to talk to all of the actors. In particular, we had a nice conversation with Paul Kreppel, the Wizard, who told us how proud he was to be in such a strong cast. It was also great to stagedoor with our Brazilian exchange student, Leticia, who had never stagedoored before.
Tell us about your favorite performance of “Wicked” that you have seen.
I’ve had so many great experiences, but I am going to have to go with the most recent time I saw the show. It was my twelfth time seeing Wicked, but I wasn’t anticipating it to be as fresh as it was. All of the actors were so spot-on with their roles, and everyone had so much energy that they were practically buzzing. It definitely exceeded my wildest expectations, and I would love to see that cast perform again. It was one of the strongest casts overall.
Where is your favorite place to see the production from (ie. Orchestra, Balcony, etc.) and why?
It’s going to have to be Orchestra. That’s my favorite place to see shows in general, as I love the view and being close to the actors.
Have you seen any fun bloopers or mishaps occur?
Not really, unfortunately. The best was when Teal Wicks said, “Just a tick tock” instead of “Just a clock tick,” but I’m pretty sure I was one of the only members of the audience who noticed that.
What are some other shows that you enjoy?
I have so many. I love a wide variety of musicals, and I equally adore contemporary shows and classics. But to name a few, I’m going to go with Spring Awakening, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Ragtime, and Gypsy. In general, I love anything fresh and innovative with strong characters that carry the show. That’s what makes Wicked for me; I just adore the characters.
Which “Wicked” actor or alumni’s work do you enjoy the most, and why?
I’m always so happy to see Wicked actors in different shows. I’m currently very involved in following Stephanie J. Block, who I’ve also seen in the L.A. tryouts of 9 to 5 and Anything Goes. But I think I’ll go with Kristin Chenoweth. I’m a huge Pushing Daisies fan, and I love watching her act in various movies. I’m 5’0″, so I also admire her so much for paving the way for pint-sized actors everywhere. Every time I see her, she makes me smile. I hope to have a chance to see her live and to eventually meet her someday.