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!!!!!!!!