Reporting Sara Pelissero
One of the most popular and beloved musicals is coming back to Minneapolis.
Wicked begins a six-week tour on Wednesday at the Orpheum Theatre, following three highly successful runs in the Twin Cities since 2006.
But before the tour kicks off, the star of the show was kind enough to chat with us about getting green and playing the so-called Wicked Witch of the West.
What was your first introduction to “Wicked?”
The first time I ever saw it was when it toured, I think it was this tour, and it came to Houston. I was in high school at the time and I just fell in love with it. And then I continued and I saw it in New York on Broadway about a year and a half ago.
What were your reactions when you saw it for the first time?
I loved it. I loved the story. And obviously, I thought Elphaba was just an incredible role. It very quickly became a dream role of mine.
How would you describe your character, Elphaba?
I describe her as a very determined, very resilient, brave person. I mean, she deals with everything one step above everybody else and has a different pace than everybody else. She uses her humor to protect her from everything, which I’m guilty of as a human, as well. She’s special.
One of my favorite scenes is right before intermission, when Elphaba is flying high singing “Defying Gravity.” How challenging is it to sing such a difficult song, while being hoisted above the stage?
It’s really thrilling, actually. The entire show is pretty challenging. The most challenging part for me in this show is the speaking and the highs and lows. The music is written so beautifully and it’s kind of, it is very challenging, but it’s more thrilling than anything. I love it so much so it’s a good challenge.
That’s obviously a very cool part for the audience but what’s it like for you, to have the best view of the entire audience?
Yeah, it’s amazing. Because sometimes I’ll fly as high as the highest mezzanine and that’s always … it’s funny because in different theaters, it feels higher but it’s not, it’s always the same height in each theater but the way that the houses are built, it feels like you’re so much higher than the last city, which is always really cool. When we do that at sound check, we practice the lift and it really is – it’s probably one of my favorite parts of the show, obviously. And I have all of the rest of the company down below and you feel the support from them and you know that the audience really loves this part. Although it’s kind of intimidating at first, it’s really … I feel really privileged to be able to do it.
How long does it typically take to get green?
Yeah, it takes about 25 minutes on average. I have an incredible makeup artist, Christina Tracey that does it for me. She’s amazing. So about 25 minutes. But she’s been known to be able to do it anywhere from about five minutes to 25 minutes. She’s amazing.
How difficult is it to remove the green?
It takes about, I would say, about the same amount of time to take it off that it does to put it on. You know, you wear it every night so you have to be really careful taking it off. It’s not that hard. I use Neutrogena and it comes off really well. Apparently, a lot of the Elphaba’s in the past have tried all kinds of fancy products but we’ve always found that Neutrogena works the best.
How did you approach this role? Did you take tips from others who played Elphaba or come in blind, ready to make it your own?
The main thing that I tried to take from other people was the advice in your personal life. It’s such a challenging role that you really have to work really hard to take care of yourself and you kind of lose a little bit of your life when you’re playing the role but with the role itself, I tried to take it completely originally and just look at the script and the text and just go from that and what the directors were telling me. I tried to not take anything from anybody else even though I think what they did is amazing. But we’re all so different. I really used the text and the music to drive my choices.
I’d imagine not only the part itself but being on tour and performing sometimes two shows a day is pretty exhausting. Is it tough to play this role every night?
Well it is exhausting but like I said, it’s my dream role so it’s totally worth it. You know, you do have to sacrifice a little bit of your personal but I think that’s with anything when you have a wonderful career opportunity. It’s just little things – you gotta to make sure you go to sleep and you have to get enough sleep and you can’t drink booze and you have to take care of yourself. It’s exhausting but it’s worth it.
Wicked is the 11th longest-running show on Broadway. What is it like to be part of such an incredible history?
I mean, I think it’s extremely exciting. I was in another big, long-running show before but it just didn’t have the same respect about this show. There’s so many shows that have been running forever but I think they can be dated. Wicked is such a timeless story and we really do take so much pride in what we do and we work really, really hard that I think that’s why it has been running for so long. We work so hard to keep it in the best shape possible to keep sharing the story.
And the tour will be here this week. Have you been to Minnesota before?
Yes. I love Minneapolis. I cannot wait to get there. I’m so excited. I was there a few months ago because my boyfriend was doing a show there and he was there for a week or two and I was visiting him. I just love Minneapolis. There are so many great restaurants.
Yes, we have so many great options. You guys will be here for a pretty long stay. Will you have a chance to explore and check out a few spots?
Oh yeah. I know it’s cliché but I will be going to Mall of America. I have to go every time I go to Minneapolis.
Wicked starts Sept. 18 at Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Orpheum Theatre and runs through Oct. 27. For tickets or more information, click here.