Today, we have a fan interview from Elana who lives in Illinois. Since seeing Wicked for the first time in 2005, she has seen the show five times, between the Chicago sit-down production and 1st National Tour.
When was the last time you saw the show and what production?
I saw the 1st National Tour in Chicago in January 2011, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Who is your favorite Elphaba and why?
Ana Gasteyer. Maybe it’s because she was the first Elphaba I saw live, but I vividly remember thinking she was absolutely flawless. I had seen her before on Saturday Night Live, and honestly just wasn’t expecting the remarkable performance she gave. The first notes of The Wizard and I blew me away, since I wasn’t expecting such a powerful, booming voice.
Of course, I’m also partial to Idina Menzel. Though I’ve never seen her live, you can feel her emotion through the soundtrack alone. And Elphaba is an extremely difficult character to play, I can’t even imagine how much work it must have been to create the role. It’s so impressive that, with the help of the creative team, she was the first person to really make people think twice about the Wicked Witch of the West.
Who is your favorite Glinda and why?
Annaleigh Ashford. She just seems to glow when she’s onstage. I don’t know what exactly it is about her, but she always stood out the most to me as Glinda. She has this never-ending supply of energy, and it makes her so interesting to watch as Glinda grows as a person. As Glinda grows, she manages to lose the superficiality, while maintaining the bubbly energy that we’ve all come to associate with the Good Witch.
Which Elphaba/Glinda pair that you’ve seen do you feel had the best chemistry?
Definitely Dee Roscioli and Annaleigh Ashford. I was actually lucky enough to go to the closing performance of the extended run in Chicago, on January 25, 2009. Dee and Annaleigh were performing together at the time, and there was so much emotion onstage through the entire performance. They had been working together for quite a while, and I had seen them together before and noticed how well they seemed to work together. The stakes were definitely heightened since it was their last performance together, and it made everything feel that much more natural, particularly the ending. By the time they reached For Good, it was clear that the song was going to be all about emotion, and not so much about musicality. It was really incredible.
What other standouts have you seen in leading roles? (these can be other standouts in the three main leads and/or the other big roles in the show)
Rondi Reed as Madame Morrible for sure. She blew me away with her total commitment to the character. I’ve always seen Madame Morrible as one of the most downright evil characters in the show, and Rondi does a fantastic job portraying that. I’ll always remember how scared I was the first time I saw her, when she came out to declare that Elphaba was loose in the castle and not to be trusted, and the speech ended in her screaming “WICKED WITCH” loud enough and shrill enough to have me practically jump out of me seat. She’s wonderfully terrifying.
I also love Telly Leung as Boq. I think people sometimes overlook Boq, as just that kid who’s hopelessly in love and eventually becomes the Tin Man. But Telly always managed to make the character stand out more – I always knew he was there, and that he had a purpose to be there.
Have you seen any understudies in the show? If so, what did you enjoy most about their performances?
I saw Jennifer DiNoia as Elphaba once, and I thought she was really great. I’ve always struggled with understudies and standbys, since I’ve never seen an understudy that was at all inferior to the main actor. Jennifer was filling in for Dee Roscioli, another one of my favorites, and her performance was every bit as good as Dee’s is. She was awesome.
If you stagedoor, tell us about your favorite stagedoor experiences.
I’ve never actually stagedoored before, but I have had opportunities to meet people involved in the show.
A few years ago, Stephen Schwartz did a book signing at a nearby Barnes & Noble. Needless to say, I made sure I was there. He sang a few songs from several different shows, closing with For Good. He signed one of my tickets, my Grimmerie, and my copy of the book he was there to sign: “Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz from Godspell to Wicked.” He was really nice, and really open to all the questions people had for him. It was an amazing experience.
I also had the opportunity to go to a taping of a half-hour TV special about the 1st National Tour on Comcast – ‘Broadway-In-Chicago Backstage.’ Four cast members were on the show: Barbara Robertson (Madame Morrible), Paul Slade Smith (Doctor Dillamond), Gene Weygandt (The Wizard), and Jackie Burns (Elphaba). I sat in the front row for the taping of the interview, and got to talk to the cast members afterwards. Having one-on-one conversations with each of them was thrilling, and they were so willing to answer any questions
Where is your favorite place to see the production from (ie. Orchestra, Balcony, etc.) and why?
I love sitting in Orchestra. I think it adds so much to the performance to be able to see detailed facial expressions, and I’ve always enjoyed the subtle nuances that would be hard to pick up on from the balcony. But Wicked is a show where I think it’s also important not to sit too close, because moments like Defying Gravity lose their power when you have to be staring straight up to see the performers.
Have you seen any fun bloopers or mishaps occur?
The first time I ever saw the show, with Ana Gasteyer playing Elphaba, the mechanism that allowed her to fly during Defying Gravity wasn’t working. The show had started a little late, presumably because they were trying to fix the problem. I imagine that that’s a pretty major issue, but the whole cast handled it really well. Ana stayed center stage, and everyone else in the cast just went where they normally would, but crouched a little lower. Having never seen the show before, I didn’t actually realize there was a problem until after the song was over!
The closing show of the extended run in Chicago was just crazy. Everyone was giving it their all, and doing things they had thought about doing for the whole run but never had the guts to try. In the middle of Popular, Annaleigh jumped off her bed, and landed on the floor in the splits. She sat there for a minute, the orchestra waited for her to get up, and the scene played off of it for a while. Little things like that all throughout the show made the whole performance extra fun to watch.
What are some other shows that you have enjoyed?
I’m a huge RentHead, and I really like newer musicals, like Next to Normal, The Addams Family, and Jersey Boys. But, of course, I’m also a sucker for some classic showtunes. I love Anything Goes, Chess, How to Succeed in Business, and basically anything with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim. I’ve also got a few obscure shows under my belt, like Blood Brothers and Bat Boy.
Which “Wicked” actor or alumni’s work do you enjoy the most, and why?
A lot of my favorites actually came before Wicked, but I love Stephen Schwartz’s other work. Children of Eden, in particular, strikes a chord in me. I was lucky enough to be in a production of Children of Eden in the spring of 2009, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The messages sent in the show, along with the incredible music, really helped the cast come together. We even ended up communicating with Stephen himself on the day of our opening night. One other cast member and I had thought to email him about how much we adored the show, and he emailed us both back in time to read his response to the entire cast just before we opened the house.
I also absolutely adore Idina Menzel. Anyone who knows me will tell you that she’s my all-time favorite musician, without question. When I listen to her sing, I feel like, vocally, she can do anything. Some of her original music is very different from the Broadway work that she’s done, while some of it is pretty similar. But even more importantly, her music makes me feel like I can do anything. The strength of her voice travels to you through the music, and empowers you. I’ve idolized her since I was a little girl as somebody who was just a regular person but, through hard work, was able to make it in show business. I really admire everything she’s been able to accomplish.