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Thursday, April 1, 2010

You couldn't make this shiz up

Here it is: a recounting of the ridiculous journey that was becoming Elphaba Thropp in WICKED.  I can't promise anything except completely overblown babbling in which there is no discernible causality or sense of a narrative through-line because, gosh darnit, there are just so many details, I don't know that I will ever be able to string together in a way that makes sense.

Flashback! to February 17, 2010.  At this point I have been performing in the ensemble of WICKED for exactly 12 days and feel more or less assimilated into my 3F track.  I wake up and head to Boogaloos, my favorite brunch spot (incidentally, I went there again today (as in, the day I am writing this (to confuse you, I will use present tense to recount the distant past and past tense to recount the present) and spotted Adrian Grenier of "Entourage" and "Drive Me Crazy" fame), when, lo and behold, there is a voicemail from my agent, Ann Steele.  "Call me."  Feh, I think.  It is Wednesday.  I have a show in a few hours and need to stuff my face with lemon cornmeal pancakes.  But she's probably just checking in and being generally pleasant...alright, fine, I will call!  Conversation goes something like:

"Hi Ann! It's Felicia!"

"Felicia-- great.  Do you know you're flying to New York City tomorrow morning?"


And so it begins.  Turns out, our then-Elphaba Standby Vicki Noon had just been hired to be Elphaba on the second national tour of WICKED, but the news hadn't been released yet, and the hiring/casting/business-y-type powers-that-be were scrambling to find a replacement in San Francisco.  Hence the whole flying me to the New York thing. 

The rest of February 17 goes something like: stuff face with lemon cornmeal pancakes, perform two shows, go to sleep, wake up at 4:30AM to catch a 7AM flight to New York, fly on said flight, check into hotel, meet baller pianist friend Justin at studio to practice Elphaba audition material, nap from 3AM-7AM, head to studio at 9AM to warm-up, go to 11:20AM audition. Then: audition.

Why fly to New York City to audition for a show you're already in, Felicia?  Good question, rhetorical device.  WICKED the musical comprises a series of companies -- among them San Francisco's sit-down, the first and second national tours, and Broadway (among others) -- which are all overseen by a main creative team, the same creative team that conceived of the original production when it opened in 2003 (we are all, therefore, the "Broadway production of WICKED").  These creative team folks perform periodic "maintenance" on various creative elements, whether that's rehearsing with current cast members or casting new actors as replacements.  They do not remain on site during an extended run -- in other words, there is no San Francisco company director; we are performing the direction of Joe Mantello (original director), which may be purveyed by him personally, or by his assistants.  As such, I needed to fly to New York to audition for the main players in charge of casting for WICKED.

Phew. Long explanation.  Anyway.  I auditioned.  Sang "The Wizard and I," "Defying Gravity," "I'm Not That Girl" did some scene stuff.  Was finished by noon.  Caught a flight out of JFK that evening.  Didn't hear anything for a week.  Finally... yep. Got the call!  Yip!  More adventure begins...

Apparently, according to my stage manager, I began the "accelerated Elphaba rehearsal track," whereby I learned the role a bit faster than I normally would because of the somewhat extraordinary circumstances of Vicki leaving so precipitously.  The good news was, from the beginning, I was contracted to learn Elphaba for my ensemble understudy track, and so had already learned all the music and a bit of the blocking.

All of this culminated in my March 26 put-in rehearsal (from which I posted those crazy greenification photos), which was beyond insane.  It was that day that I realized that being Elphaba, from a practical standpoint, is as much about doing lots of scenes, songs and high belting as it is about keeping your head in the game, pacing yourself, and, in the most basic sense, remembering to breathe.

Flashforward! to a few days after my put-in rehearsal, a.k.a. March 30, a.k.a. my first day as a standby (also Alyssa Fox's, who replaced me in the ensemble, debut).  To contextualize this a bit: in the few weeks between Vicki's departure and my assuming the role of Elphaba standby, Carrie Manolakos (from the second national tour of WICKED) came in to fill in as temporary standby.  During Carrie's entire time here, she didn't go on once for Elphaba-- which is to say, from the moment Eden Espinosa began performing on February 28, she didn't miss a single performance.

So I waltz in to my first day of standby work happy as a clam, eager for a little respite.  Because, precedent would suggest, I would, for the most part, just be chilling out.  To kick-off my extended stay at the Hotel of Leisure I decide to wear a nautical-inspired blue and white sundress and to straighten my hair in the most elegant of fashions (only salient insofar as contrasts my usual aesthetic, which is to wander into work looking like I'm wearing pajamas).  The point is: I am psyched.  The stage manager welcomes me, saying, wryly, "Welcome to your first day of guitar lessons." (Meaning, with so much leisure time, standbys take up other hobbies to pass the time.)  We share a chuckle.

Can you sense the dramatic irony building?

And like all good storytellers, I will postpone the climax until the next time.  It is, after all, late, and I am determined to eat a bean salad.

But I'll give you a hint: SOMETHING CRAZY HAPPENS AND IT INVOLVES ME GOING ON AS ELPHABA MID-ACT 1!!!!!!!!

More soon!!!!!
Felicia.

23 comments:

  1. love your blog! i think you can actually make it into a book and it's gonna me a New York Time Best Seller!

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  2. ahhhh cliffhanger.

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  3. Fel, you're whole Wicked journey seems like a big fairytale.
    Congratulotions :)

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  4. Wow! Thank you for this recounting. This is like a prequel to the actual movie. I've seen Wicked 7 times in February alone and now all those hush-hush rumors and innuendos make sense. I'm so happy for you! Can't wait for the ending of this wonderful story. ;-)

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  5. Hi Felicia

    Thanks for telling the story-great set-up-it was really fun and an honor to be there for your Elphie debut! You were a great Elphie and really turned special renditions of ALAYM and NGD.

    Please tell us how your two wednesday shows were as well.

    I enjoying chatting at stage door when people waiting didnt recognize you at first. Its been enjoyable being a Wicked regular when, in addition to it being such a great show, everyone in the cast is so friendly and fun, too...

    I look forward to part two, and seeing you again as Elphie

    Mitchell

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  6. LOL CLIFFHANGER. *dies*

    *twiddles thumbs*

    Can't wait!

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  7. FELICIA! Don't leave us in such suspense...write more!! Congrats on your elphie debut and on being such a frickin' wicked blog writer (you're sooo engaging!). Keep up the good work, and hopefully (probably) see you on broadway as principal some time soon :)

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  8. Saw you in the ensemble at the March 20 matinee. Wish I had started reading this blog before that. Congratulations on your journey. I agree that this blog is a fascinating read, and you have a real way with words. :)

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  9. Oh the suspense. I can't wait to read more.

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  10. HA! I already know the ending and I'm STILL itching for more! great writing!

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  11. Seriously love your blog. It goes us "outsiders" a really great look into the behind-the-scenes working, esp. on this musical that is loved by so many millions of people. Can't wait to read more.

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  12. My question is... When, during the major work you must have done to achieve such command of your performance talents, did you have time to learn to write so well?!?!? Keep agoin'!!!

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  13. It's so interesting to hear these behind-the-scenes details of the casting process! Congrats again on your exciting debut, and looking forward to hearing the rest of the story!

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  14. Oh man!
    Don't stop and leave it like the TWILIGHT /NEW MOON movie…
    Oh well, at least we won’t have to wait for months for the next episode.

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  15. This is a GREAT BLOG! Your humor and intelligence show in your story telling. If your singing and acting are even close to as good it will surely be a great show. Although, I look forward to seeing Eden, I am looking forward to seeing you perform too!

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  16. My family saw Wicked on March 31 to celebrate our 5YO's birthday and we were all riveted by your performance. You are an outstanding performer and your portrayal of Elphaba was extraordinary. All three of my kids are clamoring to know more about you. Thanks for this blog and keep up the excellent work.

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  17. We're from NJ - my 7 yr old performed Defying Gravity in her school talent show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx_j1LPG0Jg - before ever seeing Wicked - none of us did. So for her spring break, we went to SF and one goal was to watch Wicked.
    We were VERY impressed at your performance and your ability to step in apparently w/o notice. Seeing your reaction at the end when it was mentioned this was your FIRST TIME performing Elpheba, in front of a show audience, was just priceless... simply well done in your debut.
    Eagerly awaiting part 2...

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  18. Man, why do you like to keep me in suspense??? :) I'm so happy for you Felicia, you're my hero!!!! Looking forward to meeting you in person and maybe even seeing you as Elphaba. I'm coming back to see the show on April 7, matinee, to be precise. I love your blog by the way!!!! ;)

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  19. Just listened to a few of the audio clips on you tube of your show. You sound amazing good job. Wish I lived closer so I could see you live.

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  20. I was there on your first night! You were absolutely amazing! When Nicolas had announced that that was your first night as Elphaba infront of an audience, I was stunned!

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  21. Wow! Just saw a bootleg copy of your 3rd night! Outstanding! You're one of those people who definately don't look like your singing voice. You are such a pretty, sweet looking lass - I expected more of a "Glinda" type of voice coming out of you, but NOOOOOOO, you have a very beautiful, rich and soulful voice, rock on!

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  22. Thought that post suggesting you went on mid-show on your first day on the job was for April Fools...honestly!

    Do you have any special tricks you've learned to keep your voice in good shape?
    Tricia, Kathleen et al

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  23. felicia, i am thrilled that we were present for your elphaba debut! you were magnificent! and the transition was sooooo smooth, we werent even aware of the "elphaba switch" until etai called us at intermission! i kid you not! and of course the whole situation was perfect for your blog!!!!!BRAVO felicia!

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