Today, we have a rather different post than anything we’ve ever done – we have compiled a list of tips for what is acceptable behavior when visiting the stage door and interacting with performers at “Wicked”. So how did we do this? We started with a couple of basic tips, then contacted several performers from different productions of the show for help – some suggestions were eliminated, some were added, others were edited, and this is the list we ended up with.
Please note that this list is not all-inclusive nor may it represent the views of every performer with the show – this list was compiled by the staff here at Innuendo & Outuendo and several “Wicked” performers – obviously, it wouldn’t have been feasible to speak with everybody.
- Above all else, use common sense. You get what you give. If you are kind to someone, they will take notice and be kind in return. Remember, performing is a job – actors and actresses are people too. In the same way you wouldn’t be intrusive with someone you don’t know in the world, so shouldn’t you be intrusive with a performer.
- If a performer is very obviously in a hurry at the stage door, don’t stop them. It’s one thing if a performer doesn’t stop because they don’t expect to be recognized – particularly common with ensemble members – but if they are on their cell phone, walking quickly, etc. – they may well have somewhere to be. Remember that between the end of a 2:00 matinee and call time for an 8:00 show, performers might have two hours or less to eat, rest and be back! Use the signals they give to help yourself be courteous.
- (Note: Several ensemble performers emphasized that they do not mind being stopped – they simply don’t often realize that you want their signature – in the words of one – “If you would like an actor to sign something or say hello, don’t be afraid to politely grasp their attention and ask. Most of the time we don’t know who’s at the stage door and what they came for. Most cast members will assume you’re waiting for someone specific or are friends with someone and will continue to exit unless prompted to stop. There is nothing more awkward than asking someone if they want their playbill signed to then find out they’re not there for autographs.)
- Please refrain from asking performers to engage in social gossip about other cast members. At the end of the day, they all work together and live together. To keep their work environment healthy, it is crucial that they treat each other with respect and courtesy. This includes not asking things like: “who’s better than who?”, “do you like the new person?”, etc.?
- Refrain from pestering cast members for information they are not at liberty to give. As you know, with “Wicked”, understudies are not generally allowed to tell when they will be performing. Whether or not you agree with this rule, it puts performers in a very difficult position when you constantly ask them to share performance dates with you. Mention that you would like to know, and leave it at that. Would you want to be put in such an awkward situation? The same applies to cast changes – “Wicked” prefers to announce these themselves as opposed to letting them get out via fans and performers – and we as fans must honor this wish and know that we will be told when we need to know.
- Similarly, if you are told of such news or performance dates in confidence, keep it that way! Even just looking at it in a way that gives you an advantage, if you want to be trusted again, you should honor the trust that is placed in you. Performers can get in serious trouble if leaked information is traced back to them, and that is the last thing any of us want.
- Please do not ask performers to speak on the phone to other fans while at the stage door.
- If you are sent fan mail by a performer, do not engage in trading said fan mail with other fans – letters, playbills, and signed pictures are meant for you and not for others.
- Bring a pen or sharpie. While the actors are used to signing things often, that doesn’t mean they are always carrying something to sign with.
- If you run a fan page about the show, please do not make posts that make it sound like you are a cast member. This can confuse people who look for pages about the show on Facebook and make them feel like your page is an official “Wicked” page. Similarly, do not post or post about bootlegs on the fan pages, as they are forbidden.
- Be very careful of things you say at the stage door – remember that while performers are used to being critiqued, it is not kind to make negative comments about their performance and put them on the spot after an exhausting performance. Remember that they are human too.
- Above all – remember – you get what you give. According to several performers, this is the “golden rule” of stagedooring.
Due to a few emails asking about upcoming casting information, I felt an editorial on source veracity would be appropriate.
*Please note that these are merely my opinions and not those of “Wicked”.
The following sites are considered to be reliable sources: Playbill.com; BroadwayWorld.com (NOT the forums); Broadway.com; WickedtheMusical.com; The official “Wicked” Facebook & Twitter
The following sites are NOT considered to be reliable sources: ANY kind of Wiki; BroadwayWorld.com Forums; WitchesofOz.com; Facebook Fanpages of the Actor/Actress (unless RUN by the actor/actress and NOT a fan); WickedinNews on Twitter/Facebook
Why not? Well, the non-reliable sources are fan run and thus may or may not have confirmed information on them. We would also fall under that category, but anything that is not confirmed is clearly printed under the heading of “Is it True…?” – and we post sources with everything confirmed that we post.
Here’s a tip to those posting on these board types: PLEASE say whether or not something you post is speculation or not. So many rumors were started by an innocent post that was meant as speculation but was taken as fact.
Together, we can have a world of “Wicked” where speculation is abundant but facts are clearly delegated as such.
I recently went to a performance of Oliver!, and was unfortunate enough to be sitting next to a family with a little girl of about three or four years of age, who proceeded to yell, complain, and cry throughout a large chunk of the performance. Whilst I fully support parents introducing their children to live theatre rather than sitting them in front of a screen all day, it was highly distracting, and did make me wonder at what age it could be considered appropriate to bring a child to the theatre.
Wicked, of course, being a family musical, suffers from this problem. The website recommends it for children over eight, and refuses to let in children under the age of four – and at two hours and fifty minutes long, I think these are reasonable guidelines. Not only are there occasional frightening moments (let’s admit it: we all jumped in our seats the first time we heard the Oz head speak!), but at two hours and fifty minutes long, there are few small children who would be able to sit through the entire performance quietly. Whilst there are always some children younger than the recommended age who would be capable of sitting through a long show, there are many who would not, and parents need to seriously consider whether their child can stay still and quiet for that amount of time before deciding to bring them. If they’re unsure, there are a number of shorter musicals they could take them to; Wicked is, after all, a particularly long show. If they can cope well with shorter productions, maybe then they could try out a longer show like Wicked or Oliver! – but if your child clearly cannot stay quiet, then parents, please, wait a year or two. It’s not fair on your fellow audience members, and it’s not fair on the cast who have to perform through these disruptions, either.
I haven’t done an editorial for the site in quite a while, but after some events this weekend, I felt one was necessary. I had the pleasure of seeing the first national tour of “Wicked” this weekend, but for the evening show on Sunday night, there was a middle-aged woman sitting next to me who was a major distraction – why? Because she was absolutely plastered.
I understand why theatres choose to sell drinks, I really do – drinks bring in money and money is needed for any major business operation. My issue; however, is the amount that people choose to consume. It amazed me how a few shot glasses of wine turned this middle-aged woman into a four year old. At the beginning of the show, she was fine; smiling, clapping, laughing, and enjoying the show – but by the middle of act one, she was absolutely obnoxious – anytime anything funny would happen, she would loudly make a comment about it, laugh like a hyena, and snort. It was absurd – you don’t pay good money for a theatre ticket then get so plastered you won’t remember it.
To top it all off, during “I’m Not that Girl” and onward, she decided it would be appropriate to sing along with the show – and not well. I’m paying to hear the performers on stage sing, but instead I got to listen to her. But wait, it gets better – she had drank so much that every time she opened her mouth, this putrid smell came out – it was sickening.
I thought I would share this story partially to vent, but also to let any reader know who ever considers buying a drink at a theatre to strongly consider whether or not they can handle it without becoming ridiculous. I personally do not drink at all, but the idea of drinking in a theatre is absurd to me in any case.
Erin Wilson (Ensemble; u/s Madame Morrible – 2nd National Tour) has created a wonderful way for the cast of “Wicked” and its fans to help Haiti “For Good”. Visit her blog by clicking here, where you can bid on some wonderful merchandise and props from the show, including:
- a poster signed by the entire cast of the 2nd National Tour
- promotional photos signed by various cast members of the 2nd National Tour
- REAL props from the show, such as Elphaba & Glinda’s letters to their parents used in “What is this Feeling?”, signed by Marcie Dodd (Elphaba) and Heléne Yorke (Glinda); and Fiyero’s letter to Elphaba, signed by Colin Donnel (Fiyero).
Please visit her site and try to help Haiti “For Good”.
I thought I’d write an article on another issue that seems to be rather important within the “Wicked” community – respectful criticism vs. bashing. When critiquing a performance, one should not be expected to be all sunshine and rainbows – it actually makes a review better if it can see both good and bad in any give production. That being said, it is most certainly not a good thing when a review is filled with, “OMG that girl who played Elphaba sucked so terrible I hope she never plays it again…”
Many people need to learn to express dislike respectfully. If you truly think she sucked, say something along the lines of, “I did not care for so-and-so’s interpretation of Elphaba at all – I thought it was pretty awful BECAUSE…” The word “because” is also very important – if you’re going to say something, at LEAST back it up. I feel that that is the difference between constructive, respectful criticism and bashing. Always remember that the actor or actress who you are reviewing may read what you said – and they’re much more likely to take offense at bashing than constructive criticism.
Closely related, when somebody criticizes your favorite actor in the role, don’t jump down his or her throat. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion; not that there’s anything wrong with saying you disagree, but getting into a “No, I think so-and-so is miles ahead of what’s her face” is just silly and proves absolutely nothing: it’s an opinion, nothing more, nothing less.
I think if we all learned how to be respectful when reviewing a show, it would make the world of “Wicked” a much better place.
Today’s editorial will be on a question which fans of “Wicked” commonly wonder: why do the producers of “Wicked” not promote very many standbys and understudies into leading parts? After all, they’re tested in the role and “deserve” the leading roles after understudying it for a long time. So why don’t they get it? Well, to answer this question, one really has to be in the mind of the people who cast the show: clearly, we are not. However, we can make educated guesses on the logic behind their decisions.
I feel that the main point is that standbys and understudies are cast as exactly that – standbys and understudies. Even if we as fans don’t see it, and even if we feel that Julie Reiber (standby for Elphaba in Los Angeles & Broadway) is the best thing since sliced bread, there has to be some reason that she was cast as a standby and not as the lead position – in this case, no doubt the experience of Eden Espinosa (standby Elphaba/Nessarose on Broadway; Elphaba on 1st National Tour [temporary], Broadway, Los Angeles) sealed the nail on that coffin. Does it mean Eden is better than Julie? No, that’s a subjective decision: and honestly, we don’t even know if the producers think so: They could be going with her proven ability to lead a show (in both “Wicked” and “Brooklyn” on Broadway) over sheer talent. We never really know.
Closely related to that point, just to touch on the whole method of thinking that a standby or understudy “deserves” a part, one must honestly remember that the world isn’t fair – and also the fact that they do not have a guaranteed promotion clause in their contracts. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that many have been overlooked who really did deserve a leading role, but that’s really not up to us to decide.
Money also sometimes plays a part in the decision of who may lead a part. I know for a fact from people involved with the show that Laura Bell Bundy (standby for Glinda on Broadway; later played Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” on Broadway and Tour) was offered the role of Glinda after Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda – Original Broadway Cast) but demanded the same amount of money as Chenoweth and ended up breaking the contract. However, we often do not know about money in the situations (and it’s really none of our business), so I’m sure that may be fairly common behind the scenes.
We also are not guaranteed that all standbys and understudies want to be promoted. While I do not know specifically whether or not she wanted to be promoted, Lisa Brescia (standby for Elphaba on Broadway; Elphaba in Chicago) was working on a degree in Womens’ Studies while backstage at The Gershwin and may have not accepted offers to be promoted until the Chicago stint. Once again, we will most likely never know.
Finally, I think name is important to “Wicked” producers, especially with the Broadway Cast. Look at all of the Broadway cast replacements: they had either had a good bit of New York theatrical experience or were very familiar within the “Wicked” world – Shoshana Bean (had done “Hairspray”, “Godspell”, toured with “Leader of the Pack”); Eden Espinosa (led “Brooklyn” on Broadway); Ana Gasteyer (of Saturday Night Live fame); Julia Murney (“The Wild Party” on Broadway; National Tour of “Wicked” as Elphaba); Stephanie J. Block (“The Pirate Queen”; “The Boy from Oz”; National Tour of “Wicked” as Elphaba; original Elphaba in “Wicked” workshops); Kerry Ellis (“Wicked” imported from London); Marcie Dodd (toured with “Hairspray”; toured in ensemble and as Elphaba and Nessarose understudy with “Wicked”; Nessarose in Los Angeles “Wicked”; standby for Elphaba in Los Angeles “Wicked”); Nicole Parker (MadTV); Dee Roscioli (2 ½ years with the Chicago company of “Wicked”, two of which were spent playing Elphaba full-time). Everyone of these women had shown a capacity to lead a show (or were a publicity stunt) and thus were given the leading role. I would go through and do the Glindas as well, but I think it’s fairly self-explanatory.
One other quick factor; especially for smaller roles: if an understudy is a swing, I feel that the production is much less likely to move them up simply because swings are so versatile and so difficult to train, as they have to learn 9-10 roles in the show: the one exception I know of with a swing promotion was Briana Yacavone to Nessarose in Los Angeles, and that was kind of done on an emergency basis with Caissie Levy’s vocal troubles. I do feel that being a swing can be a bad thing if you want to be promoted.
All of this being said, I still think that we fans must remember overall that it is the producer’s decision to promote people as they please, and though we may search for logic in their decisions, the only way to know for sure is to be them, and we are not.
PHOTOS: Top Right: Eden Espinosa & Laura Bell Bundy as standby for Elphaba & Glinda together on Broadway
Bottom Left: Nicole Parker as Elphaba on Broadway
There has been a stink in the “Wicked” community (and rightfully so) lately over the sudden firing of Annaleigh Ashford (former Broadway Glinda; u/s Glinda in 1st National Tour) from Cirque de Soleil, and it has left many people wondering why she was let go when she was such a major character, appearing in most of the press articles, photos, and even having a large spot in the commercials. For some reason though, producers wrote her part (and one other part) out of the show.
Even though my heart goes out to Ms. Ashford, I think we must understand that Cirque de Soleil is a huge production – one that most people attend without really caring who’s in it. In a sense, it’s like “Wicked”, where maybe 0.005% of people could even tell you who was in the show. And like Cirque, it’s going to continue selling out anyway. That being said, if someone is not working or a part is not working (we really don’t know which is actually true in this case), they can be let go without any major repercussions, unless the casting is big and public. An example of this was the firing of Joanna Pacitti from the leading role of Annie on the National Tour and subsequent Broadway production of 1997: the casting had been done on a huge Macy’s Talent Search with a Turning Point Special also being aired about the casting. Needless to say, when word got out that she had been let go when she was out for two days with bronchitis, many people boycotted the show, leading to it’s quick demise, with the Broadway production only running from March to October of 1997.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for Annaleigh Ashford. She is merely a face on a commerical in pictures to most Cirque fans and her firing will not hurt the ticket sales of the show. That being said, I’m sure we all feel awfully sorry for her, because this is still a dreadful situation for her to be in.
PHOTO: Annaleigh Ashford in “Cirque de Soleil”; photo courtesy of playbill.com
As I’m sure anyone reading this blog knows, there’s currently a bit of a situation in the West End production of “Wicked.” But let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start…sorry, couldn’t help it!). Flashback to October 11, 2009: the day in which we find out via an interview that Mrs. Stephanie J. Block (former Broadway, 1st National Tour Elphaba) was nearly lined up (and had actually been put in!) to do the West End production of Wicked due to the illness of Alexia Khadime (Elphaba), Ashleigh Grey (standby for Elphaba), AND Sabrina Carter (understudy for Elphaba). Thankfully, Shona White (former West End standby for Elphaba) was able to come in and stand by for the role (though she never performed, unfortunately).
So everybody figured it was a rather temporary situation as the regular players for the role of Elphaba recovered: wrong! Now, on November 8, we are still speculating from day to day of who will be playing Elphaba each evening… So now the question becomes: Are we about to see another situation where the role of Elphaba murders somebody’s vocal chords? I hope not, for everyone’s sake.
My firm opinion, caused by many situations of this sort, is that all productions of “Wicked” should resort to an alternate system in which a lead is only expected to do six shows per week. This system has been successfully utilized in Germany since the production began previews on October 31, 2007 and has had Willemijn Verkaik stay healthy in the role of Elphaba since then.
Best wishes to all involved in this situation!
PHOTOS: Top Left – Stephanie J. Block as Elphaba (1st National Tour, Broadway)
Bottom Right – Alexia Khadime as Elphaba (West End Production)