AND YES I'M GOING TO START WRITING THIS IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT GIVES THE IMPRESSION THAT I'M SHOUTING AND INDEED I WISH TO SHOUT BECAUSE THAT IS THE ONLY WAY TO CONVEY MY EXTREME EXCITEMENT.
[Felicia takes sip of water, regroups.]
Okay, I just took a sip of water and regrouped, so I guess the shouting can stop (FOR NOW).
The point is: last night the stars aligned and I got to meet STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, a composer and lyricist I've admired for my whole life -- somebody whose music (as you may have read in Unnaturally Green) helped shape and challenge me in a truly formative period in my life, that bizarre and wondrous time I performed as Elphaba in Wicked. Mr. Schwartz is the genius behind Godspell (whose soundtrack I know by heart), Pippin (whose character of Bertha, the grandmother, I played when I was 13), the infamous "Songs of Death" ("Defying Gravity," "The Wizard and I," and "No Good Deed," as well as the rest of Wicked's flawless score), and over a dozen more musicals that have captured audience's hearts -- and monopolized my singing-in-the-shower time -- for decades.
So how did our encounter happen? Completely by chance! The whole "you never know who you're going to run into in New York City" cliche is kind of true, especially if you, like me, live right near the theater district. In fact, all yesterday I had a particularly eventful day of celeb sightings -- prologue to the Schwartz main event -- in the form of Bobby Moynihan from SNL, Jennifer Morrison from Once Upon A Time, and Anne L. Nathan and Santino Fontana from Broadway and my ultra-fave web series Submissions Only. (I know -- crazy, right?)
Last night my friend Lesley offered me a ticket to go see Leap of Faith. While normally on weeknights I am an antisocial hermit who cowers in darkness, I eagerly obliged, since Lesley is a super cool chick and I'd been curious to see the recently Tony-nom'd show. During the performance Lesley and I had a grand old time -- laughing, crying, commenting on Raul Esparza's killer voice and defined arm musculature, Kendra Kassebaum's (my former Glinda co-star!) flawless comedic timing, Leslie Odom Jr.'s ridiculous off-the-wall general awesomeness -- before we gathered our things and shuffled with the rest of the audience down the stairs.
Outside the theater, Lesley leaned over and whispered in my ear. "That's Stephen Schwartz!" I whipped my head around, almost 360 degrees, in the style of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
"Where? Where? Where?"
"Right there! Stephen Schwartz!"
And there he was. Shorter than I imagined, milling through the cloud, smiling and looking jolly and extremely Stephen-Schwartz-like because -- holy, holy crap -- it was the real deal, in the flesh: STEPHEN FRICKIN' SCHWARTZ!
"Should I say hi?" I said, hyperventilating. "I can't say hi. I can't. I shouldn't. Should I?"
"I mean, you should totally say hi."
"I can't say hi. I can't. I can't just say hi. Oh my God, I'm going to say hi. Here I go, saying hi. Excuse me, Mr. Schwartz? Sorry to bother you." Before I knew what was happening I was touching his arm. I couldn't know why, I just was doing it. "My name is Felicia Ricci; I performed as an Elphaba standby in the San Francisco company of Wicked, and I'm a huge, huge, huge fan. I also sent you my book, Unnaturally Green? Perhaps you remember?"
"Oh, of course! Felicia! So nice to meet you!"
From there, the world spun off its axis, and I toppled from the space-time continuum while meanwhile my mouth kept saying things like, "I'm just such a huge fan! What an honor. What an HONOR! What an honor to be able to sing your songs. I've been a fan my whole life. I mean, Wicked was and remains so important to me! I'm just such a fan! Wow. It's an honor."
Things will therefore be much less coherent from here on out; instead of exact dialogue, I can recount feelings and happy thoughts and the general gist of what was going on on this earth, while meanwhile I was reeling in a fourth dimension of musical theater nirvana.
FEELINGS, HAPPY THOUGHTS, GENERAL GIST:
- Stephen Schwartz is so friendly and nice and smiley and he's not shooing me away or asking me to go away this is the best day of my life!
- I wish the humidity hadn't given me wispy old-man hair, in the style of Donald Trump, if Donald Trump grew his hair out and wove it around bobby pins in a nonsensical manner!
- Stephen Schwartz knows about my book! He's smiling about it! He says he knows about it! He knows I exist!
- I wish I could meet myself as an insecure braces-clad 13 year-old playing a grandmother in her mid-seventies in Pippin; I would tell her that A) the perils of adolescence are temporary, B) one day I would meet Stephen Schwartz!
- It's a sign! Meeting Stephen Schwartz is a sign that I'm meant to keep writing and working hard and believing in myself! If Stephen Schwartz can make beautiful stories sing, so can I make beautiful stories!
And that, my friends, is the story of how I met Stephen Schwartz.
(Moments later I ran into another friend of mine, Bettie from San Francisco, who as it turns out was also in the audience of Leap of Faith. What a serendipitous day!)
Do you have any stories of running into famous people you admire? Share them in the comments section!