Today, we are excited to share an exclusive interview with Michelle London. Michelle has been with “Wicked” since early 2008, when she joined the Chicago company in the ensemble and as an understudy for Glinda. Since then, she has joined the 2nd National Touring Company, where she understudies both Glinda and Nessarose. I also had the pleasure of seeing her in the role of Glinda in September. Check out her interview below!
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you land it?
The first show I did that I got paid for was called “Sockmuffin the Elf” (I played Santa Clauses’ mother) it was the first audition my very first agent got me. I auditioned with “Falling in Love with Love” they asked me if I knew anything more POP so I sang my best POP version of “Make Them Hear You” (stupid choice) It was at the Globe Theatre in Hollywood. I was 15. I lived 60 miles away. The show was equity. I was not. (dunno what kind of rules the producer was breaking) I spend my entire Christmas in LA with my amazing mother. There were performances where there were more people in the cast than there was in the audience. There was also a show when the band didn’t show up so we had to sing without music…. (not great) I ended up at the very end of the run getting a personal check from the writer for $76 dollars. Nothing ever came of that show or the random mess of people who put it together.
What are some favorite jobs you’ve had other than “Wicked”?
My absolute favorite job was working at Disneyland. I will work there again if they will take me. Just an amazing group of people… many many Wicked folk worked at Disney at one point or another…. I also was a singer on a Carnival Cruise ship… not my best work but I got to spend a few months hanging out in the Ocean. Oh and a few years ago I did “Oklahoma” at a Dinner theatre in Southern Cali. It was in 3 acts cause they had to serve dessert. It ran for like 8 months. I wish I could still be doing that show.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked” and what was the audition process like?
Oh my audition process….. When they were opening the LA company they had an open non-required call. About 700 People showed up. I sat in the gym at the Methodist church for a few hours before the finally called my number. They had it set up like American Idol . There were I think 3 different rooms with lines of people outside of them … I wasn’t equity at the time so I got to sing only 8 bars.. I sang the last few bars of “Live inside your heart” from BatBoy. I still cannot remember who was in the room but whoever it was asked me to sing Popular. The next day I was asked to come back and dance and do the Glinda sides. So I did. (from this audition invited to audition for the new Broadway show High Fidelity…I lied and said I lived in nyc and flew out fort the audition) Cut to a YEAR later. I’m still not equity yet. I got to another open call and because I’m non-equity I didn’t get seen! I was so mad that I drove to the Equity office and bought my card. (something I could do because I was a member of SAG for a few years and in good standing). So for the next few months I do a few equity gigs and continue working at Disneyland. Another 6 months go by. I was sitting in a Rehearsal hall when someone from the casting office called me with an appointment. I was totally in shock and now a Brunette. So i made a hair appointment so I would match the Headshot that they had on stock. Bleached and ready I did all the Glinda sides and danced my heart out. The next evening I got a call that said I had to be in Chicago in a week. Yep.
How long and how difficult was the initial rehearsal process for the show?
Not very long but very difficult. I had about 2 weeks locked in a room with the Dance Captains or Music Director. They would say things like “Wait for Cones then go to 10 track 3” WHAT?! After that madness I had a standard “put-in” (where t
he ensemble runs the show but you are the only one in costume.. very weird).
What was your first show like? How were you feeling throughout the show – nervous, excited, scared?
I don’t remember. You don’t get lights or smoke or sound in your put-in so that threw me off. But I don’t really remember my first show. I remember my first show as Glinda. I couldn’t see the conductor in the Bubble and sang the opening so fast that the ensemble members were running to get to their next spots.
What is your favorite song or scene to perform in the ensemble and as Glinda and why?
Ensemble- Loathing hands down my most favorite to do. But I love to sing the opening and Thank Goodness because of the high notes. I love them.
Glinda- The opening and Thank Goodness. I feel like these two have so much emotion that Glinda isn’t allowed to convey to the Ozians. It’s fun trying to hold back feelings Unlike Loathing or Popular where it’s all there in the Lyrics.
Do you have any onstage bloopers or mishaps you’ve been involved in or witnessed you’d like to share?
Way too many…. My first time on as Nessa I tipped the Wheelchair forward so that my feet were on the ground during “No, he’s the one! It’s me that’s not right” The Glinda had to grab the back and push me back down. Another time a Nessa the Magic on the Magic Wheelchair didn’t work so i had to do “crazy arms” Which is me pretending that Elphie possed my arms to spin myself around. I could hear everyone on and off stage laughing. Um… There are a million more but most are only funny to me.
Which is more exhausting: all of the dancing and heavy singing of the ensemble or the intensive acting and singing of Glinda?
Well they both are challenging… Just wearing that Bubble dress is a workout in itself. But even after 600 performances I still am out of breath after Loathing. What makes me the most mentally exhausting is doing Nessa. That entire second act scene is so mentally taxing. Between the elation of being able to walk then instantly having my heart ripped into pieces it’s very hard to keep it together.
How did you come to understudy Nessarose in addition to Glinda? What’s it like playing two different principal roles?
Well… One of the Nessa understudies in Chicago decided not to go on tour and they had an “in house” audition. I love being able to play Glinda it truly is a dream come true. However, I feel like Nessa is more of a challenge and is more interesting. Glinda has a lot to work with. The audience will always fall in love with her. She has one million layers and the audience gets to see maybe 1,000 of them… Nessa isn’t onstage as much so her back story and arch have to happen off stage. The audience sees her young and hopeful in the first act then out of nowhere she becomes this horrific governor. As an actress I have to Play both of those characters without making them two different people. (does that make any sense?)
Are there any dream roles you’d like to play one day?
Tons…. Fantine (Les Mis), Rose (Aspects of Love), Swallow (Whistle Down the Wind), Anna ( The King and I), Maria (The Sound of Music), Queenie (Lippa’s The Wild Party) Belle (Beauty and the Beast) Polly (Crazy for You)…. I could go on for days.