Last week I made my Broadway
debut in the smash hit Wicked
and like the best theater always does, it left me with some big life
the clever book by Winnie Holzman
and songs by Stephen Schwartz
musical tells what happened before
the Wizard of Oz. Seeing
this spectacle of sound, imagery and
acting as an audience member turns upside down the hundred-year-old Oz
story. Last weekend, I had the
once-in-a-lifetime experience to not only see what happens backstage
during such a phenomenal production, but to play a tiny role as the
first ever walk-on in the show's history.
My experience for Wicked began a few
days before the actual performance. I had a tour backstage and then a
see Alyce, a veteran seamstress and costume designer as evidenced by
"No Whining!" button on her lapel. I was outfitted from
head to toe with an elaborate costume: witch-green boots, a colorful
coat, gloves, and a whimsical hat selected by my young sons.
A couple of days later I showed up
for rehearsal. Cast member Jennifer
Waldman patiently walked me through the "train scene" in which I was to
appear. She probably thought I was dense when I asked her to
repeatedly go over my bit part, which had no singing or speaking. My
was to walk on stage with Jen like travelers with our suitcases and
freeze when Elphaba (the wicked witch of the West) says, "... there
will always BE...." Then, when the conductor screams "All Aboard!", I
to spring to life, wish Jen farewell, then move to another woman (Jan
Neuberger), talk with her for a moment and then rush to board
a train moving offstage.
During the show, I anxiously
waited backstage for my two minutes of
fame, all the while marveling at the machinery and process to put on
such a production. I heeled like an obedient dog to stage manager Bess
Glorioso, who constantly moved me to avoid being crushed by skyward
trampled by cast members rushing to their next scene. Astonishingly,
every cast member took a moment to whisper in my ear a warm welcome and
cheerful 'good luck' - no exaggeration - every one of them.
When my moment finally arrived, Jen ushered me on stage. I hit the
freeze queue. (Yeah!) Then kissed her hand as we parted. (In rehearsal,
she told me the regular guy did that so I figured I'd go with what
worked!) Then over to Jan for a few moments where she spoke in hushed
terms - something about "having fun" - but it was all such a blur. Then
when I turned to exit the stage, I was startled to see 10 or more cast
members watching my every move and quietly cheering me on. I left the
stage elated and relieved, but the pageantry wasn't quite over... as I
to later discover.
I watched most of the second half from the audience where I could
ponder the play's meaning a bit more. The play tracks the iconic
of good and evil from the Wizard of Oz - the Good Witch Glinda and the
Wicked Witch of the West,
Elphaba (whose name originates from the initials of the original
Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum). I will not give away the premise of
the play except to say that your moral compass will be left spinning
out of control after learning what happened before Dorothy showed up in
Oz. I was moved and motivated by the evolution of Elphaba, which was
best captured in lyrics from the final number of the first half, Defying
here to see the video clip
Something has changed
Something is not the same.
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game.
Too late for second guessing. Too late to go back to sleep.
It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap.
It's time to try defying gravity.
I was back in costume on stage for
the curtain call with the rest of
the cast. I took a bow with the line of gentlemen, which was a great -
undeserved - honor given the minuscule role I played. Then the ladies
took their curtsies and then the bigger stars, including finally the
witches Glinda and Elphaba played by Jennifer Laura Thompson and
Shoshana Bean. With their mics still on, the witches announced to the
packed theater that it was one cast member's
Broadway debut. The two
of actors and actresses parted leaving an astonished me alone. I
made my way to center stage between the witches and took a final bow.
The curtain fell and the cast congratulated me and then erupted in a
chorus of "Happy Trails" as is customary to sing for departing cast
it is possible to defy gravity, I felt like I was at that time. It was
a far more emotional experience than I would have predicted. On the
plane flight home, I couldn't help but to remind myself to trust my
instincts, close my eyes, and leap.