Posts tagged Cassie Okenka
The company of the first North American tour of WICKED is thrilled to welcome Jenn Gambatese as Glinda on Tuesday, February 26 in Costa Mesa, CA and Curt Hansen as Fiyero on Wednesday, March 20 in Tucson, AZ.
Gambatese starred on Broadway as Jane in Tarzan and Natalie in ALL SHOOK UP. Other Broadway credits include HAIRSPRAY, IS HE DEAD?, A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD and FOOTLOOSE. She has been seen Off-Broadway in FIORELLO! and STAIRWAY TO PARADISE (Encores!) and THE SCHOOL FOR LIES (Classic Stage Company). Gambatese has been seen around the country in LIPS TOGETHER TEETH APART (Westport Country Playhouse), WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE (Yale Repertory Theatre) and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and CAROUSEL (Goodspeed Musicals).
Hansen has been seen on Broadway in NEXT TO NORMAL (as well as the First National Tour) and HAIRSPRAY. TV credits include Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush as Dak Zevon and The Good Wife. He has also been seen regionally in PARADE (Center Theatre Group), GIRLFRIEND (Actors Theatre of Louisville) and A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS (Lythgoe Family Productions). Gambatese and Hansen join a cast that includes Dee Roscioli as Elphaba, Kim Zimmer as Madame Morrible and Tom McGowan as The Wizard. The company also features Justin Brill (Boq), Clifton Davis (Dr. Dillamond), Demaree Hill (Nessarose) and Laurel Harris (Standby for Elphaba) with Dina Bennett, Lauren Boyd, Kyle Brown, Antonette Cohen, Rick Desloge, Timothy A. Fitz-Gerald, Napoleon W. Gladney, Brenda Hamilton, Courtney Iventosch, Trevor Ryan Krahl, Philip Dean Lightstone, Marissa Lupp, Michael Mahany, Jonathan McGill, Kevin McMahon, Cassie Okenka, Shayla Osborn, Christopher Russo, Adea Michelle Sessoms, Sarah Schenkkan, Pamela Shandrow, Ben Susak, Shanna VanDerwerker and Mikey Winslow.
WICKED is playing through March 17 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA. Good seats are still available and can be purchased online at SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787.
WICKED will play The Tucson Music Hall, March 20 – April 7. Tickets are available at the TCC Box Office, online at broadwayintucson.com or ticketmaster.com/wicked or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
WICKED, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Disney’s Enchanted, Academy Award® winner for Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt) and book by Winnie Holzman (“My So Called Life,” “Once And Again” and “thirtysomething”), is based on the 1995 best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire. The musical is directed by two-time Tony® Award winner Joe Mantello (Take Me Out, Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Vagina Monologues) and features musical staging by Tony® Award winner Wayne Cilento (Aida, The Who’s Tommy, How To Succeed…). WICKED, the untold story of the witches of Oz, is produced by Marc Platt, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone.
Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the land of Oz. One – born with emerald green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. WICKED tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. WICKED features set design by Tony® Award winning Eugene Lee (Ragtime, Show Boat, Candide, Sweeney Todd), costume design by Tony® winner Susan Hilferty (Spring Awakening, Into the Woods, Assassins), lighting design by Tony nominee Kenneth Posner (Tony® Award winner for The Coast of Utopia, Hairspray) and sound design by Tony Meola (The Lion King). Stephen Oremus is the show’s music director. Orchestrations are by William David Brohn, with dance arrangements by James Lynn Abbott.
WICKED has “cast quite a spell” (Washington Post) throughout North America, breaking box office records in every city that it has played, including Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Boston to name a few. WICKED has been declared “A Cultural Phenomenon” by Variety and “The Best Musical of the Decade” by Entertainment Weekly. There are currently four productions worldwide: New York, London, and and two concurrent North American Tours. Globally, WICKED has amassed nearly $2.9 billion in ticket sales and has been seen by 36 million people worldwide in its nine year history. Grammy Award-Winning Cast recording available on Decca Broadway. For more information about WICKED log on to www.wickedthemusical.com.
Today, we are thrilled to present an Exclusive Interview with Jillian Kates, who currently performs in the ensemble and understudies Glinda and Nessarose on the 2nd National Tour of WICKED. Check out her hilarious and detailed responses below!
What was your first professional theatre job? How did you get it and what did you learn from the experience?
Shprintze in Fiddler on the Roof at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. My mom took me to the auditions which I honestly don’t remember because I was 9. I think I sang “Baby Mine” from Dumbo. Soo…Appropriate. This was the first show that I worked with legit, professional adults so I remember watching the actresses playing my older sisters in awe. That said my priorities at this point were more in re-enacting my best Queen Amidala in Star Wars backstage with the other Anatevka kids. We brought props from home. We were really invested in the project
How did you come to audition for WICKED? What was that process like?
I had auditioned for the universal swing position in Wicked before booking this
track. For that audition I sang the “green blizzard” solo from the opening of Act II. Now it is one line, very straight forward, and of course I had gone over and over it before I went in. So I go in, they give me the note to start, and the artistic liberties that flew out of my mouth were not quite what Mr. Schwartz wrote (which is “like some terrible green blizzard, throughout the land she flies”) My bluesy rendition went: “like some terrible green blizzard, the witch begins her fliiiiight!” Not correct but not too shabby for a word slip. The conclusion of that audition was brought to you by awkward silence, *blink* *blink* from casting, aaand “thank you”.
My Glinda cover audition was extraordinary. I’m not talking my performance (although I suppose it wasn’t my worst) but the circumstances were literally beyond the ordinary. The initial audition and callback were very standard in that I came in and did the Glinda packet straight through both times. The final dance callback I showed up with about 20 minutes to spare and the Laducas [dance shoes] started piling in, one pair of which I recognized, my friend Cassie Okenka (ensemble, u/s Glinda – 1st Ntl. Tour)! So of course we are excited to have a friendly face in the waiting room (we went to school together at Baldwin-Wallace College) and were just catching up, all the while noticing the girls trickling in. Now the attendant comes out and says “Okay we’re gonna begin with the Glinda dance call. Can we have Jillian Kates and Cassie Okenka…”and that was it! Just Cassie and I! Best dance call of all time. After that we were both happy knowing that no matter who they chose it would be a B-W gal. Fast forward to the end of the story and we both booked it..one on each tour!!!
How did you react when you got the call that you were cast in the show?
It went something like:
Agent: “Jillian…I have some unfortunate news..”
Agent: “You’re gonna need to sublet your apartment!! Ya booked it!!!”
What was your rehearsal process for your ensemble track like? For Glinda?
For starts, I had never been put into an already mounted production so it was different adjusting to working with two dance captains acting as the 16 other people that I come into contact with. For some reason you feel like you have to learn it as fast as
possible and then the last week you’re like “Okay. I’ve done all I can do in the studio..I just need to do it!” It was like this big puzzle that I had to learn how to fit my little piece into.
What was your first performance in the show like? What about your first performance as Glinda?
My first performance was like everyone says a huge adrenaline high, feels like you’re dreaming, feels like you got shot out of a canon, etc. etc. etceteraaaa. My Mom said I was cheesin the whole show.
My first Glinda show was a real treat. It was in Montreal, QC and I felt equal parts excitement and terror. I show up to the Place Des Arts early to have ample time to get ready and 5 minutes to curtain they call us all into the green room to tell the cast the automation is down a.k.a. no levitator and NO BUBBLE. I swallow it, take it as a sign of good luck, and request that instead of a wand I may saunter on with a martini. Strangely, martini is vetoed and I take my place on stage level backstage ready to come and go by…walking. The rest of the show went off without a hitch and I felt über fortunate to have the best seat in the house for Defying Gravity watching all my cast members slide into home base and lay there like beached whales while Christine Dwyer (Elphaba – 2nd Ntl. Tour; former s/b Elphaba, former ensemble, u/s Elphaba – 2nd Ntl. Tour) wailed, which is well worth the price of admission to hear.
What is your favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble? What about as Glinda?
My favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble is the Opening, for sure. My favorite scene as Glinda is the whole Wizards Chamber/Defying Gravity sequence. Favorite song is Thank Goodness.
What are some of your favorite cities that you have visited on tour, so far?
I loved our time in Canada this summer especially Ottawa and Montreal. The architecture was absolutely stunning and they have such a proud, rich history. I also liked that it was similar enough to America that you could easily live there and navigate your way around but at the same time it also felt like a foreign vacation because of the strong French influence. I will definitely be making trips back.
Have you witnessed any or been involved in any onstage bloopers/mishaps that you’d like to share with us?
Oh so many bloopers! That’s the best part about live theatre and doing a lengthy run with a show we really cling onto those moments because it keeps it interesting and watching cast members try to recover or hide whatever just happened is hilarious.
I am pretty clumsy and have had two pretty epic falls onstage. One happened in the Opening when after Glinda stepped out of the bubble, the bubble convulsed, knocking all the bubble juice out and onto the stage and several cast members below. So we all see this happen and seeing that they weren’t stopping the show, keep going, trying to take our crosses as slow and steady as we can. Now this juice is really thick and soapy so all I kept picturing was one of us going down and it being a domino effect until the last “WICKEHHHD” when the last ensemblist falls and only Glinda is left standing. Well as it happens only one soldier fell and guess who it was…ME center stage, high pitched yelp, feet off ground, limbs flailing, and BOOM, cruuuuuunch.
My other amazing tumble happened in ball cross, no doubt. Here I am, trying to be the picture of beauty and grace in this giant hoop skirt which is hard enough to navigate on any given Sunday and this particular cross I’m a little more concerned for my wig which is trying to jump ship off my head when my shoe catches some of the fabric underneath my skirt and I slow mo fall. It literally felt like eons. My partner scrambles to get me up, and I booked it off stage right before anything else could go down, literally.
What are some dream roles that you would like to one day perform?
I have always said I don’t think my dream role, the role I feel I was “born to play”, has been written yet. Of course I still have some roles I’d like to play: Clara in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY, Sheila Franklin in HAIR, Sally Bowles in CABARET, Mary Poppins, Girl in ONCE, and Nellie Forbush in SOUTH PACIFIC. So maybe I do have a dream role..or seven.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
I would say, as cliche as it is, to never give up. To survive in this business you have to be okay with hearing a lot more no than yes. I try to go into the room with the confidence of “Here I am to give you a little taste of the artist I am..if you want to collaborate with me..great! if not..great! Someone else will.” You have to, HAVE TO be able to leave whatever happens in the room at the door and not let it run your life. It’s not personal, it’s a business.
- Several WICKED performers were in the 2005 movie adaptation of THE PRODUCERS, including Andy Kelso (former Fiyero – 1st Nat’l Tour), Kathy Fitzgerald (former Madame Morrible – Broadway), Tory Ross (former ensemble, u/s Madame Morrible – 2nd Nat’l Tour), Wayne Schroder (ensemble, u/s Wizard, Dillamond – 2nd Nat’l Tour), Jane Brockman (ensemble, u/s Madame Morrible – 2nd Nat’l Tour), Jan Neuberger (former ensemble, u/s Madame Morrible – Broadway), and Charlie Sutton (former swing, u/s Chistery – Broadway).
- Cassie Okenka (ensemble, u/s Glinda – 1st Nat’l Tour) performed in the ensemble and was the understudy for Carlotta in the collegiate premiere of “Phantom of the Opera”.
- At one point, Kris Cusick (former Fiyero – Los Angeles, Chicago; former ensemble, u/s Fiyero – Broadway) was on a pre-med track in college.
Today we are pleased to present an Exclusive Interview with Cassie Okenka. Ms. Okenka is currently in the ensemble and an understudy for Glinda on the First National Tour. Her previous credits include Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ and a swing and understudy for the lead of role Bonnie in BONNIE & CLYDE on Broadway. To find out more about Cassie Okenka, please visit cassieokenka.com and follow her on Twitter @Cassieok.
What was your first professional acting job?
This question makes me giggle. I’ve always heard you’re a professional when you get paid. With that mindset, my first job was doing CATS down at McLeod Summer Playhouse in Carbondale Illinois. I was Jellylorum and loved every second of it, except when it was 90 degrees, and I was wearing spandex with no air conditioning.
How did you get it?
I did a huge cattle call called the Midwest Theatre Auditions my Sophomore year of college. My friend at school actually got offered the part first before I got called.
What did you learn from the experience?
I loved my time down there. I loved the people. I learned that you really do have to challenge yourself to see what you can do. Never in a million years did I think I could dance that show, but there I was during the Jellicle ball, standing beside the Victoria and Misto Cats.
How did you come to audition for WICKED? How long was the audition process, and what did you have to do?
I had actually been going in for WICKED since I graduated college, but I had always been going in for an Elphaba cover, so a good 4 years, the casting team has seen me once or twice a year. I got as far to sing in front of the creative team but my feedback was my voice was too young. But the past time I went in for an Elphie cover, the feedback I got was I was more of a Nessarose type. Then I got a Glinda audition. Weird huh. But I went in for Glinda, sang my stuff (Glinda’s opening, the scene into “Popular” and “Popular”, and the catfight scene). The next day I went in and sang for the creative team. Then the following week, I went to a dance call. The next day I got the call! That process was fast, taking a bit over a week.
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
I just thought, this is really cool. And I am so ready for this ride. And honestly, I was kind of dumbfounded. Since I had gone in for Elphaba for so long, I thought I was just going to be put on a list for Glinda. And I was so glad the casting team was willing to see me for something different.
What was your first performance in WICKED like?
It was awesome! I opened in Portland but I had my put-in two weeks prior! So I had to remember what I was doing, since the two weeks prior I had been learning Glinda stuff. But it was so fun. And actually, it was the first time
the levitator failed ( How Elphaba flies) so Plan B was put in place. So that really made my WICKED Debut special.
What was your first performance as Glinda like?
Now that was cool! I was very lucky that I had a heads up my Glinda bebut was coming so I could really focus in and not wrestle with as many nerves. Flying in the bubble was the scariest part but coming down surrounded by bubbles in a beautiful blue gown is such an amazing entrance. It was also the
first time I was hearing laughs, in rehearsal you don’t normally get reactions like a full house reaction. I loved going on as Glinda and can’t wait ‘til it happens again!
Have you witnessed, or perhaps been involved in., any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
Just a little one, but our conductor still pokes fun at me. I was in my 5th show as Glinda, and focusing a bit on notes given to me from my conductor. During “Thank Goodness”, the lines “he couldn’t look handsomer, I couldn’t be humbler…” came out ” I couldn’t look handsomer, he couldn’t look humbler”. Which still kind of makes sense….but of course I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. And the conductor still calls me handsome time to time.
Do you have any favorite parts of the show to perform in the ensemble?
I ADORE my ensemble track. I play Pfannee so I get to be a mean girl with a permanent stank face, Frankenstien in a cupcake dress, and melt the witch as Dorothy. I think I love Ozdust the most. It’s a challenge being a dance number, and it’s a blast with my partner, Mikey [Winslow – ensemble u/s Boq]. There is always something for me to work on and I can make different choices after Glinda disses us.
What about favorite parts to perform as Glinda?
I would love to say “Popular” because it is so fun to do. But
there is something about “Thank Goodness”. To see and hear Glinda’s struggles in her wording is a great acting challenge, and I really love to sing it. It has great range and you get to see a bit more of Glinda’s
Can you tell us a little about your experiences on LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL: THE SEARCH FOR ELLE WOODS?
This reality show came at a good point in my life. We filmed it my last semester in college so for me it was a great gage of how I was compared to established girls in NYC. It does suck that I was the first one kicked but it was a great way to make sure I didn’t make a fool out of myself. It gave me great connections in the city and was a fun way to spend a few weeks instead of being in school. :)
What about touring with THE WIZARD OF OZ?
I loved my Wizard of Oz experience. Yes it was a bus and truck tour but I would not change it for the world. I met the most amazing and important people in my life, saw incredible places, sang at awesome places (The White Sox and Astro’s games, opening the Smithsonian in D.C, On Good Morning America…) and I got to hang out with dogs! This being my first big thing out of college (I booked it 2 months after I graduated), it was a big test on my professionalism and work ethic. I also can sleep in any moving thing (subway. train, car, bus, plane) within minutes.
How did it feel to make your Broadway debut in BONNIE & CLYDE? You got to perform as Bonnie, the role you understudied. What was that like?
BONNIE & CLYDE was the most incredible, magical, powerful three months of my entire life. To be involved in a project in the early stages is cool enough but for it to be a Broadway show is just unimaginable. I could not have asked for a better Broadway Debut in my life. Laura Osnes [Bonnie], who I covered, wasn’t feeling to well on Saturday so I took extra care to shadow her backstage just in case. She did both shows on Saturday, but Sunday morning I got the call I was going on. I had had about four hours of rehearsal the previous week but hadn’t run majority of the show at all, including changes from the previous week. (It was the eleventh preview [previews are where the creative team makes changes to a musical before it is reviewed by critics]). I felt like I was shot out o f a cannon. I was prepared and ready and just so excited. I was able to have some amazing friends in the audience that I got entrance applause!! I could not imagined my debut going as well as it did. I sang a solo onstage, shot a gun, died, made fast costume changes, at one point did get confused backstage on what was next, and made was in a Broadway curtain call. I got to perform an ensemble track also which was so fun, too. I also got to be on the Original Cast Recording! It is a giant shame it closed. (BUT Go out and buy the soundtrack! You won’t be disappointed). It was literally a dream come true.
P.S. As I’m answering all these questions, it really makes me realize how incredible lucky and blessed I have been.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to perform one day?
I’m honestly not sure. There are songs I love to sing from different shows (THE LAST FIVE YEARS, SISTER ACT, etc…) bt nothing that immediately speaks to me really strongly. Maybe it hasn’t been written yet. And when it does, I hope I tap dance in it.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
This life is very hard. and very frustrating. And, at times, will hurt
your soul and your heart. But, if you can make it through that,
someday you will walk home crying because your heart so full of pure joy, it will literally feel like it is going to burst out of your chest. And all the rejection and noes and “why not me?” will not matter. Just keep going and jump, no matter if it performing or what. Just jump.
Check out this promotional video of Cassie Okenka (ensemble, u/s Glinda – 1NT) performing the lead role of “Dorothy” in THE WIZARD OF OZ, on the 2008-2009 National Tour. She sings “Over The Rainbow”. The video was posted by YouTube user NETworksOnTour as has been embedded below.
Cassie Okenka (upcoming ensemble, u/s Glinda – 1NT) played Dorothy Gale on a National Tour of THE WIZARD OF OZ.
The late Rob Guest (The Wizard – Original Melbourne Cast) played the title role in the musical THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA over 2000 times, more than any other actor in the role.
Alli Mauzey’s (Glinda – 1NT; former Glinda – San Francisco, Broadway; former s/b Glinda – Broadway) voice can be heard on the cartoon ALPHA TEENS ON MACHINES as the character “Catalina ‘Lioness’ Leone”