"It's a big switch to come back to the big Wicked stage," said Tony winner Rondi Reed about her recent return to Broadway following a few L.A.-based years. During that time, she enjoyed a starring role on CBS's Mike & Molly, among other screen projects, but heading back to the world of musicals was a dream that was always in the back of her mind — even as she began to put down roots in Los Angeles. "I kind of stayed and then I stayed some more," she went on, explaining that she even gave up her apartment in Chicago (where she had been an ensemble member at Steppenwolf). "Then of course as soon as I was like, OK, I'm going to commit to living in L.A., and started doing projects around my rented house and adopted a little cat, that's when Wicked came up."
Pets and renovations not withstanding, the decision to head back to the Great White Way, where she first appeared in The Grapes of Wrath and later August: Osage County and Wicked, wasn't a tough one for Reed, who remembers, "It was something that I had always thought I would love to do again, because Wicked has been an incredible part of my life."
What's the first thing you wanted to do when you got back to New York City?
There's several things of course. I was in Central Park right away because that is to me the saving grace of New York City. I had a slice of pizza, and then last week I used the flimsy excuse that we had nine shows so I ordered cakes from Amy's Bread for the cast. I'm telling you, it was the biggest love bomb I could have gotten — to get some cakes for people. It's so funny that two out of the three things are food-related, but that's New York! Cake, pizza, and Central Park. Those are the big priorities.
What has the experience of returning to this role been like?
Well, when I first did it, I was so intimidated because it was like my high school dream come true. I put my foot in the pool and for whatever reason they chose to cast me, and it really was life changing. And people are like, "You won a Tony and you were in Steppenwolf." But that doesn't matter, because when you do a big Broadway musical, it's unlike anything else. This time around, I think I had a sort of an ease. I think that's a gift of age. I know what I can do and I know what the needs of the show are, where my character's concerned, and I can handle that.
What song from the show do you find yourself singing most?
Here's the song that is my biggest earworm, and I blame Stephen Schwartz for it: It's "What Is This Feeling?" It's the one that I go to bed and it's in my head and I wake up and it's in my head, and I'm like "Stop with the lyrics from 'What Is This Feeling?' in my brain." I do love "Defying Gravity" and "No Good Deed." I have penchant for Elphaba songs. I could never sing Elphaba songs.
Are there any Elphabas and Glindas that particularly stick with you?
Jackie Burns and Amanda Cooper are just terrific. They're the current Elphaba and Glinda. It's a big return for Jackie too; she hasn't done Elphaba in about four years, and you know she is training like an athlete. They're well matched, and they respect and serve each other really well in the story.
And, of course, I always have to bring up my first Wicked cast because I'll never forget when they cast us all for the Chicago production and they brought us to New York to rehearse. It was the first day and we had done a sort of pseudo table-read-sing-through all at once, which in my naïveté I had no idea was going to happen. So I was panic-stricken and I managed to remember from my audition my music and I was like, "Even if it's bad just sing it." And then Ana Gasteyer was sitting right next to me and she went into "The Wizard and I," and when she hit the final note, I swear to god it was like my whole body was vibrating and the room erupted in applause. It was incredible. I was like, how do you do that? How do you sit there in a metal folding chair in a rehearsal room and nail all this? How do you do that? It was one of the coolest things I ever experienced.
What's the best part of being back in Wicked?
I go out the stage door every night, and there's little girls dressed up and they're from all different nationalities. They're all ages and all types and they all have this magic in their eyes about what they just experienced. It's thrilling that we have a show that is as strong as it is and as beautiful as it is and that says, "You can be different, you can be an individual, it's important to support each other." And I always say to the kids, "Are you a Glinda or an Elphaba?" And many of them will answer right away and then there's other ones that are standing there head-to-toe dressed in pink and they look at me and they go, "Elphaba." And I just love it. And the other ones go, "I don't know, I think I'm a combination," and I go, "Sounds good. Or you could be Madame Morrible, you'll work forever."
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