Today, are proud to present our 40th exclusive interview – this time with Julie Reiber. Ms. Reiber has worked in both the Los Angeles and Broadway companies of the show as the standby for Elphaba. Previously, she toured with “Rent” and also stood by for Eden Espinosa in “Brooklyn” on Broadway. Enjoy her interview below!
When did you first know you wanted to be an actress?
At the age of 12. I did a show called “Mad Mad Mad Mad Cinderella” at the Bellingham Community Theatre and I was hooked.
What was your first professional job and what did you learn from it?
Well…I sang a few church gigs in high school and college. Those were the first times I got paid to sing. But my real first professional job was as a singer on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I learned a lot there, but I learned more when I moved to NYC. That is when I REALLY learned what it takes to make it in this biz.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked”? What was the process like?
I got my first appointment for Wicked while I was performing in BKLYN the musical on Broadway. The process was long for me. Spanned over about a year I think. I probably had about 5-7 auditions total before I booked the job.
What was your reaction when you found out you had the job?
Well…to be honest I was thrilled, but I was in a place in my career where I was turning down understudy jobs, so it was a hard decision to leave home to cover because it was the new L.A. company. But I really wanted the opportunity to play this incredible role. I knew Elphaba was a great fit for me and I wanted my shot at it….so I headed to L.A.
What was your first performance as Elphaba like?
It was pretty out of body. I had not had a put in rehearsal yet (that is where you are on the stage for the first time and you do your quick changes, the technical stuff, etc.) I was in my dressing room and they came down and said that Eden had hurt herself or was feeling sick….can’t recall. All I know is, the show had just started and it was right after ‘The Wizard and I’ that they came down. They said, “we gotta get you green.” Like I said, I hadn’t had a rehearsal yet, so I was freaking out a bit, but I was prepared and went into work mode. I had done all my homework and knew that even though I hadn’t had a rehearsal, if they needed me they wouldn’t hesitate to throw me on. And I was right.
So we got me green and I went on right after “Popular.” Eden walked off and I walked on. It was really crazy. I was so focused and it literally was a survival, out of body experience. I just knew I had a job to do and I did it. Everybody said it went great. I guess it did, but I really didn’t have any idea what I did 😉
It was an amazing time…but it was a little crazy.
And ironically….my first show in the Broadway company was a similar thing. I hadn’t had a put-in yet and I was thrown on. I can’t remember if it was mid show that time, but I think it was. No rehearsal and same thing….just get thru it without messing up!
Live theatre….good times. 😉
What did you do backstage during your spare time as standby?
What didn’t I do? 😉
In L.A. I made a goal to learn to play the guitar. So that took up a lot of my time there. I played a lot and wrote my first tunes there. I also watched all of “Six Feet Under” in L.A. Crocheting, reading, yoga, tea drinking, TV watching.
Also having dinner with friends, running errands, working out, sitting on my couch at home….we had a 5 block radius as standby’s so we could be out and about and I lived close. Lucky girl. 😉
What was your favorite song to perform in the show?
That is a tough one. I loved each one for its own reasons. If I had to choose it would be “Wizard and I” or “No Good Deed.” The two opposites of Elphaba’s show. And of course who doesn’t love flying and screaming the most famous musical theatre song ever “Defying Gravity.” 😉
How did the move to Broadway Elphaba standby come about?
They had asked me to stay on as standby in L.A. and I passed on that. I wanted to come home. I was home for about 5 months when they called me to standby in NYC. It was right next to my house and I just couldn’t pass it up. I loved the role so much, I was excited to play it again on Broadway.
How did performing with different actresses as Glinda change your performance?
For me acting is all about being present and listening. So it was so fun to experience different Glinda’s. They were all so different and I never try to plan how I will play a scene. I try to just be present in it and react…which would always make me different. So I think I was always in essence the same, but each Glinda would bring out different things in me.
What did you do to warm up before each performance? Did you have a set routine?
Well…when I had the time to prepare and wasn’t going on half way thru the show or got the call right before the show….I did have a routine. I would always do some yoga to some of my favorite music. Then I do some breathing/meditation. I’d do my vocal warm up and then I’d get green. I always listened to some of my favorite tunes (Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, Michael Jackson) during the green process and sang along probably louder than my team wanted to hear 😉 but that was part of my warm up.
Then right before I went on for Elphaba I had a little routine that I did backstage. I did these kicks and punches on the side, always giving a high five to the stage hand there. Then I’d continue to do the same right behind the clock flailing around probably looking crazy 😉 but just loosening myself up and getting my heart rate up for that first entrance where she is so thrilled to be at school.
We know that you enjoy writing music – what are some sources you look to for inspiration?
Well…I’m still looking to become a better musician on my instrument so I can have more inspiration from that. Playing and finding new sounds inspire me a lot and is the start of my process. I usually write the music first. I am also inspired by things that happen in my life that give me strong feelings.
Are there any dream roles you’d like to play one day?
My biggest dream is to create new roles. I want to continue to work on new projects and be able to bring myself to roles and be a part of the creative process of building it from the beginning.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Be yourself. First and foremost. There is a lot of rejection in this business that can make you think there is something wrong with YOU. You need to be strong in yourself and who you are. And trust that you are right where you are supposed to be…even if you aren’t getting a role you wanted and really thought was yours. There are so many factors at play that are out of your control. So the only thing you can control is your audition. You do your work there, be yourself and do your best….and then leave it in the room. Whatever happens…you are still wonderfully talented and trust in the universe that it is all happening just as it is suppose. You just move onto the next one. When it’s right, it will fit and you will book it. 😉