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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I met Stephen Schwartz!

THIS IS A BLOG POST ABOUT THE TIME I MET STEPHEN SCHWARTZ (HOLY CRAP) WHICH WAS LAST NIGHT OUTSIDE THE  ST. JAMES THEATER (HOLY CRAP) AND THEN I SKIPPED ALL THE WAY HOME (HOLY CRAP) AND NARROWLY DODGED GETTING SIDE-SWIPED BY A TAXI (IT HAPPENS).

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.

(Fangirl much?)

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!

Love,
Felicia






18 comments:

  1. Well the closest I've come to this was a few weeks ago, when my friend and I were in Singapore (that's where the Australian production of Wicked has just finished touring. Yes, we planned the whole trip around Wicked. It was my 5th, 6th and 7th time seeing the show).
    Anyway, we were very emotional because it was our last full day in Singapore and last night seeing Wicked and we went to Marina Bay Sands (the theatre) to pick up our tickets and who should we see in a coffee shop just outside, but David Harris (Fiyero)!
    He knows us (we've frequented the Stage Door a lot and there have been tweets exchanged, haha) and when he saw us he waved- and it was a genuine "hey, I know you" wave not a wave out of politeness that you do when you see someone you know in public.

    But I get that feeling when I get tweets from celebs I admire, especially if I never imagined they'd reply (like the lovely author of this blog, for instance!). I actually got a tweet from Stephen Schwartz once and almost died!

    It was nothing major. I asked if there was any news about the Wicked movie (seriously, I'm dying here. We need a movie) and he replied with "nope". But it was still a huge deal for me... until the other day I realised I'd lost the tweet and almost cried.

    -Carlie (AKA @carlie_dawn)

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  2. When I was in NY I ran into Reeve Carney from Spiderman, Robin de Jesús from In The Heights and La Cage, and John Larroquette all in one day. That was pretty crazy. The next day, I ran into a San Francisco Wicked star in a tea shop in Columbus Circle. I can't remember her name, but I'm pretty sure she played Elphaba a few times.

    -Joe

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  3. I was waiting for my ride to pick me up at Nashville airport checking out my Twitter feed and reading what Kristen Chenoweth was up to when I realized she too was somewhere in the airport.
    As I stood waiting I observed 2 young ladies trying to get about 8 bags to a waiting car when one of them spoke--it was Kristen!!!!!
    Seeing their dilemma I walked over and offered my baggage handling services. After loading the car, she was very gracious thanked me profusely for the help and gave me a big hug!!! I actually think I was too starstruck to say much of anything.
    The "weird" part of this whole experience, I was in Nashville to see Idina in concert!!!

    bwaymom

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  4. I was walking around town one day on a day off... I had just finished my weekly intake of thai food (yes I eat thai food at least once a week, from the same place (Hey Felicia if your ever in Northampton MA I'll take you!!)). I was standing on the street corner and it started to rain :(. Such is New England in the summer. Well I looked across the street and it was none other than Jane Lynch (we all know her as Sue Sylvester from one of my favorite Tv shows). I almost died!!! I didn't want to stop her in the rain, but we ended up crossing by each other so I just did a small wave and mouthed "I LOVE YOU!!!!" and she waved and mouthed "THANK YOU".... flash forward a year and half...

    I work in a local store (very famous from what I have heard) its called FACES!!! We have had a few celebrities come in. Well it just so happens one random Tuesday JANE LYNCH WALKED IN!!!!! I didn't want to bother her, but my friend got her autograph when she checked out. She said how nice it was to come into a store and not have everyone freak out lol but secretly i was Felicia screaming on the inside :).

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  5. Oh My God!!! This is the stuff of dreams and letting my imagination run wild!! Living vicariously through you right now!! So excited for you!! :)
    xx

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  6. Under the "Small World, Isn't It?" heading, I was thinking that Santino Fontana's girlfriend (well, for the time being) on "Submissions Only" is played by Donna Vivino, who, like you, is another former Elphaba. Does that count for anything?

    I've never met Stephen Schwartz, although I did once meet Stephen Sondheim. And I went to college with Jack Feldman, who just picked up a Tony nomination as the lyricist for "Newsies." We saw "Follies" together during its pre-Broadway tryout at the Colonial Theatre in Boston in February, 1971, at the first performance at which "I'm Still Here" went into the show. I wish I could say that that was the occasion on which I met Sondheim, but that would not be true.

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  7. I met OJ & Nicole Simpson waiting for a flight to Hawaii. They were very nice. We were traveling with my parents and my dad kept saying incredibly weird things. They were very gracious about it. Creepy now, huh? Oh, and we just got out of SF ballet Don Quixote (awesome) and are staying at your fave, the Hotel Whitcomb. Makes me laugh thinking of your book review of staying here.

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  8. I had just come back to my home state when my mom had a surprise for me. I had absolutely no clue where she was taking me. Assuming it was a musical, I played along. When we got to the theatre, my eyes were searching desperately for a poster or sign that would give me a hint of what was to come, but to no avail.
    It wasn't until we were both seated that I opened the program annd saw the name "Julia Murney". Hmmm...why did that sound so familiar. Wait...NO WAY!!!! I'M IN THE SAME BUILDING AS JULIA MURNEY!!!! Also, JENNIFER LAURA THOMPSON WAS IN THE HOUSE!!! WOOHOO!!!
    Their performances that night were unbelievable!! But then, Julia announced that she would be in the lobby after the show selling her new album and giving autographs!! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????? Of course, I jumped all over that opportunity and was one of the first in line. When I finally made it up to the table that she was sitting at, we posed for a picture. When I tried talking to her, I was tripping all over my words. I proceeded to tell her how much I love Elphaba, Wicked, Broadway and theatre in general.
    And that, my friends, is the story of the day I met Julia Murney!

    P.S. Felicia, I would have had the same reaction as you did towards Stephen Schwartz if I was to ever meet you!

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    Replies
    1. The stars aligned and the universe smiled; the paths of two AMAZING people kissed. Karmic destiny...

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  9. W-O-W! Jelousy... ;)
    I would've acted even more crazily than you, though. So it's good it was you instead of me.

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  10. I waited in line for Seth Rudetsky's autograph after his live show in Fort Lauderdale with a black eye and nasal fracture care of my 4 year old daughter. I was super nervous and every ounce of intelligence drained out of me. The only words that came to mind were, "I'm obsessed with you." Seth will say that about well-known broadway stars on his radio show, but I think he took my comment as creepy and stalkerish. He looked at me strangely for a second and then asked me about my nose. He wrote "your poor schnoz xo Seth" on my program. I'm sure he would never remember, but I am forever mortified. Felicia, you should be on his show! You are terrific and I know I will see you on Broadway someday soon.

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  11. I was also at Leap of Faith Tuesday night and after the show was over I worked my way thru the crowd to the stage door where my friend grabbed me and said "Steven Schwartz was just here talking to Felicia Ricci!!!". I can't tell you how excited I was as I responded, "Felicia Ricci is here? Where? Introduce me!" Just a few days earlier I had spent a 5 hour flight from San Francisco to NYC reading your book. I have to tell you it was the fastest flight from SFO to JFK I've ever taken. If I had met you that night I would have told you how much I loved Unnaturally Green and enjoyed your work in Wicked SF. Oh btw, I also saw Taye Diggs & Idina Menzel in Schubert Alley later that night which was exciting, but my biggest disappointment of the evening was missing out on meeting Felicia Ricci.

    Annie

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  12. Thank for all these amazing comments! It's so cool to hear your stories. @Annie! I'm sorry I missed you!! What a bummer. If it ever happens again (hey, you never know), send me a tweet and I'll try to come find you.

    @Anonymous If Seth is a cool dude (which I suspect he is) I'm sure he didn't think you were being cray. I think a prevailing fear of theater fans is that you'll sound weird or flustered or whatever at the stage door...but, honestly, I never judge people's reactions as being "awkward" or somehow embarrassing; if you're speaking from the heart, you can't go wrong. As someone who can get flustered herself, I know that sometimes words just fail!

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  13. The last time I met Douglas Sills (I think it was number 3...) I had a moment of insanity and blurted, "CAN I HUG YOU???" and he was like, "Sure! Oh, you're so cute! Look at you!" and then I was engulfed in ginormous Douglas Sills-ness. I was horrified that I had gone to the "asking-for-a-place" but thought, "screw it, getting hugged by Douglas Sills." I was 16. C'mon.

    Also, much more recently, Jon and I saw John Williams conduct the Boston Pops and ended up speaking to him briefly afterwards. I took his hand and sort of did a, "Your music... I just... it's been very important to me..." and Jon was basically in tears. He was amazingly sweet and we sort of gushed at him for a few moments.
    -Esme

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  14. I've met Stephen Schwartz when he was having a look at the Dutch production of Wicked in the Hague, Netherlands (with the amazing Willemijn Verkaik as Elphaba).

    Stephen Schwartz is such a kind man. I was shaking when I shook his hand. Hopefully this genius will create soo many more great musical theatre plays like Wicked.

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  15. Wow, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who gets flustered when meeting stars! :) I met a the 1NT cast of Wicked at the stagedoor back in December, and I was so nervous (and it was reallly cold) so I was kind of shaking a bit. And I met Katie Rose Clarke, who is my favorite Glinda and I look up to so much, and she hugged me! Very cool. I hope I get to meet you soon Felicia, and hopefully I won't seem like a total starstruck crazy fan!

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  16. Was perusing your posts and saw this. I met him as well in So. California after his S. Schwartz and friends show (or something like that).
    He is the most meticulous autograph-er I've ever seen. I went behind his table to get a photo with him. He was so nice (and I didn't even, like, sing in any of his productions or anything!) :)

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  17. You're so lucky! I wish I could meet Stephen Schwarts. But then again, I wish I could meet a lot of people who have ties to Wicked (*cough*StephanieJ.Block*cough*).

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