Today, we are thrilled to share an exclusive interview with Kate Loprest. Ms. Loprest was a member of the Chicago company of WICKED for over a year, performing in the ensemble and covering the roles of both Glinda and Nessarose, performing both multiple times. Furthermore, she has played several other roles, including Amber Von Tussle in the closing cast of HAIRSPRAY, Nellie Oleson in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and Vivienne in LEGALLY BLONDE. Check out her experiences in WICKED and thoughts on “the business” below!
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
I was fifteen when I did my first professional acting job. I played the role of Young Vi in the Midwest premiere of Jeanine Tesori’s VIOLET at a small theatre in Highland Park, IL where I also took classes as a kid. When they needed to cast children or young people, they asked kids who were already affiliated with the theatre through those classes. I can distinctly remember learning what it felt like to be in the moment and that’s also when I realized that acting wasn’t just going to be a hobby for me anymore. I was a lifer!
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? What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
I grew up in a town called Deerfield, Il which is only forty miles North of Chicago. Chicago obviously has always been a big theatre town and has only continued to get bigger since the WICKED sit down came and went: Jersey Boys, Spelling Bee, Addams Family, and Kinky Boots have all sat down or had Pre-Broadway tryouts there. But I digress. I went to the University of Michigan for college and was only four or five hours away from home during those years so I came back a few times to do some auditions. I heard that they were coming to Chicago to audition for WICKED in the second semester of my senior and seeing as I was already about to graduate, I figured it would be a good way to “dip my toes in the pool”, so to speak. They called me back several times after that – six or seven maybe, it wasn’t a direct hit. I think they knew they wanted to use me but they needed to figure out where I was best used. Ha, I honestly cannot remember what I sang! Around Thanksgiving time, they called me in again, and my agents called and told me this time I was getting an offer…they didn’t know for what company but I was definitely getting an offer. We waited….for days. I started to get antsy because I was going home for the holiday. I remember calling my agent and saying, “If you done think I should get on this plane….if you think I should stay just in case they need to see me again, I won’t go!” My agent assured me that everything was fine so I got on the plane. I got off the plane and there was a message on my phone form my agent: “You didn’t leave yet, did you???” They called while I was in the air and told my agent that they couldn’t give me the offer without Stephen Schwartz’s final approval….and he needed to see me tomorrow. So, I went home for the day and the WICKED company flew me back to New York the day after. I did my audition and flew home. And I waited….again. All through the Thanksgiving holiday. I got back to New York and still no call. Two days went by. I decided I’d had enough of waiting for the phone to ring so I went to Macy’s in Herald Square to look for Christmas presents. Naturally, I ended up trying something on for myself and that’s when the call came in! In the dressing room at Macy’s. I screamed! They lady next door asked if I was ok. I bought whatever it was I was trying on and ran out of Macy’s calling my friends and family telling them I was coming home to be in my hometowns sit-down company of WICKED. I happen to think it’s a pretty good story, am I right?
What was your first performance like? How did you feel throughout the show?
I don’t remember much of my first performance…. Who does? You feel like you’re being shot out of a cannon and you’re just trying to stay out of other people’s way. It was the day after Christmas, though, and my family was there. It was a special night. My grandparents had their first date in the Oriental Theatre in Chicago (where WICKED used to sit) so that theatre was a part of MY history. I was proud to have been a part of it all.
Which of your understudy roles did you feel like you suited better – Glinda or Nessarose?
I loved playing both Glinda and Nessa for different reasons. Playing Glinda felt closer to my real personality: at 23 I was very bubbly with curly blonde hair, like Glinda. I also love to make people laugh and Glinda has some great comedic moments in the show. I also loved playing Nessa because it was so OPPOSITE my personality. It was a real acting challenge for me and I loved every minute of it.
What was your favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble? as Glinda? as Nessarose?
As an ensemble member, my favorite moment of the show was the Ozdust Ballroom. As with any long running show, we had all sorts of understudies on all the time. I really enjoyed watched all the different pairings of Glindas, Elphabas, Fiyeros, Nessas and Boqs interact with each other. Each person brought something new and, as an actor, it was fun to watch people discovering new things about their characters all the time. As Nessa, I loved performing her second act scene. As a little blonde haired thing, no one really wanted to see me do any real drama. But when I put on that Nessa wig and got in that chair, I really felt her anger and disappointment and I really got into it. I loved going on for Nessa! As Glinda, well, everyone loves doing Popular, of course! But the moments that have really stuck with me since have been the last minutes of the show – from For Good, to Elphaba melting, to sending Morrible to prison, to ascending the bubble on last time, to black out. Those last minutes are so heart wrenching and beautiful. I never felt like I had to push in those scenes – I always felt genuinely and honestly connected. And that says a lot about how well the show itself is written.
What, for you, is the most challenging part of the show to perform in each role you played?
I always say, “The hardest part of any show is putting on your costume and getting on stage”. After that, you’re so caught up in the show and your adrenaline is running and before you know it, it’s over. I think that applies to any role I played in WICKED and any role I’ve done since.
Did you feel like you had particularly strong chemistry with any particular actors and actresses in the show with you? Why?
I felt different chemistry with all the actors I went on with. I enjoy the energy of not necessarily knowing what’s going to happen or how a scenes going to go. That’s acting! Being in the moment. In other shows I’ve done, when an understudy has gone on with me, they start out by apologizing because “it’s not going to be what you’re used to”. Good! That gets boring. I’m all about finding new moments and discovering new things on stage. That’s what makes acting so exciting.
Have you witnessed – or perhaps been involved in – any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
Ha! I feel like the craziest things only happened to me when I was doing WICKED. I was playing Glinda and I was offstage about to go on for “Dancing Through Life” when one of the heels of my hundreds-of-dollars-LaDuca-heels broke off! Telly Leung looked at me and said, “What are you gonna do?” I couldn’t go onstage with just one heel. It was probably not the smartest thing to do in retrospect, but I reached down and tore off the other heel. My shoes may have looked like golf cleats but at least they there the same height. My other favorite is when Kristy Cates and I were doing the Fallen House fight scene in the second act and I had just twirled the wand a la Jedi Knight. In the freeze, the sparkly ball top thingy (whatever you call it) become dislodged and rolled across the stage and landed at Kristy’s feet. We just stared at each other and kept going but the timing of this whole thing was HILARIOUS!
What is your favorite role that you have played to date in any show? Why?
Well first off, I’d like to say that I have enjoyed every role I’ve played. Truly. I particularly loved playing Amber in HAIRSPRAY, Nellie Oleson in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and Vivienne in LEGALLY BLONDE. I loved playing these roles, particularly, because the directors that I worked with allowed me to be an actor and find my own way. They did not want me to duplicate anyone’s performance who had come before me. I’m very lucky to have had those amazing experiences and more lucky to have the support of people who are confident in me, my instincts, and my professionalism.
What was it like to work with Whoopi Goldberg in “Xanadu”?
Whoopi was fun! She brought now only a huge group of people to see Xanadu ( which was great) but also a new energy to the cast and the show. She invited us all to a pizza party at her home in Soho and we took turns holding her Oscar. She is a very generous, cool, real human being and I was happy to get to work with her even for a short time.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to one day perform?
Looking back on my career, I will always be a little sad that I missed out on playing roles like Liesel in Sound of Music or Elle in Legally Blonde (though it turns out I’m a Vivienne and VERY happy as one). I’m either too old or just don’t carry that energy anymore. The good news is, I’m 29 now. I’m a brunette. I’ve had a lot of life experience in the last eight years and I’m ready to take on new challenges…and dream roles. To name a few: Sally Bowles, Eva Peron, Fantine, Violet or Daisy – SIDESHOW (both roles have different challenges), Violet – VIOLET, (would be nice to go full circle from playing Young Vi to Violet), Queenie – WILD PARTY. I want to play a role that breaks me down, tears me apart, and challenges me to go outside of my comfort zone. I also am jonesing to do a play; no music, no dancing, just in the moment acting. I would particularly like to play Wanda in VENUS IN FUR (who wouldn’t?), Jeanie in FAT PIG, and Maggie in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. But I’ll be honest: I love acting and any opportunity I be to do that is a thrill and an honor.
Would you ever consider a return to “Wicked”?
I would consider going back to WICKED only if I was playing a lead full-time.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
I could go on for HOURS giving aspiring performers advice! I’ll leave it to three points. 1) College should not be the end of your education. Get to class. Ask for help. Do something you’re afraid to do. The more living you do, the better an actor your will be. 2) Don’t let the theatre be your whole life. You’ll burn out too easily. Make friends outside the business, get another hobby, start a blog about decorating, volunteer to a charity. Again, the more living you do, the better an actor you will be. 3) The energy you put into the universe comes back to you – positively and negatively. It’s easy to lose yourself in the negativity of this business, i.e. this casting director hates me, I’m never going to work again, so and so always gets an audition and I never do…and so on. Thinking negative thoughts does you and the works around you NO GOOD. It’s hard enough in this business so be kind to other and to yourself. Wish the person going into the room “good luck”, connect some friends who are looking for a roommate situation, hold the elevator for someone who is running late. These things may seem little but they do not go unnoticed. And I promise, you will feel better too. And if you see me at an audition, PLEASE come say hi!