Withstanding the test of time is a true measurement of excellence. Now in its 15th season on Broadway,
Wicked has managed to captivate theater- goers throughout that remarkable span of longevity by presenting an intriguing tale of Oz before that young girl from Kansas arrived.
This spellbinding musical tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba and Glinda, who hold opposite views but share the same love interest. Eventually their rivalry evolves into a deep friendship until society labels one “good,” and the other one “wicked.”
Having surpassed an astounding 6,000 Broadway performances, “Wicked” finds itself in some very elite company. Only six other musicals—“Phantom of the Opera” “Chicago,” “The Lion King,” “Cats,” “Les Miserables,” and “A Chorus Line”—have lit up Broadway more often.
The captivating allure of “Wicked” stems from several factors. This is a lavish Broadway musical at its finest as no expense was spared in creating one of the most magnificent sets in the history of theater. Spanning beyond the proscenium across the front of the theater, the set dazzles
the imagination. Couple this with eye-popping costumes, a compelling story line by Winnie Holzman and exhilarating score by Songwriters Hall of Famer Stephen Schwartz—who wrote the music and lyrics—and the ingredients begin to take shape for a musical of epic proportions. Audiences are mesmerized by the magnificent 27-piece orchestra that soars on a musical journey through the magical Land of Oz. Conducted with a rich rubato and dynamics that perfectly complement the script, the masterful score serves as the bedrock of the play.
Perhaps above all, basing the novel “Wicked” on one of the most beloved movies of all time created a buzz about the show before it even took root.
Seen by virtually everyone as a child growing up, “The Wizard of Oz” has been ingrained into pop culture since it first played in the movie theaters in 1939. Also, landing established Broadway stars such as Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda heightened the anticipation of its opening night.
Wicked deserves to be applauded on many levels. It has introduced the excitement of musical theater to thousands of young people, and even adults who don’t regularly attend shows are enthralled by the experience they receive. BELLA NYC recently spoke with Amanda Jane Cooper the effervescent, “bursting with talent” actress who assumed the role of Glinda in 2017.
What does it feel like being part of such a monumental production for your Broadway debut?
It’s a true honor, a blessing, a dream come true. I have such reverence for the show because it’s a very powerful piece of theater. I hope I can continue its legacy of redemption and friendship.
What challenges does such a production present from an actor’s perspective?
Above all, hitting your marks is crucial because it’s such an intricate production from a timing perspective. Sometimes it seems like you only have a few milliseconds to prepare for your next scene or for a costume change, but the skilled backstage managers keep everything flowing smoothly.
What’s it like singing with one of Broadway’s largest orchestras?
The music department is so incredible that they make singing very enjoyable every night. Actually, I don’t get to hear all of the musical intricacies while performing that the audiences may hear because of the way the set is staged. However, the music is so rich and the orchestra is incredible.
How did you land this role?
It almost seems like fate. I attended Carnegie Mellon University, as did Stephen Schwartz. He came in to teach a class and I had the fortunate opportunity to sing “Popular” for him when I was 19 years old. He later remarked that I might be Glinda one day. I began performing with the national tour of Wicked in 2011 and then read several times for the Broadway production. Mr. Schwartz remembered me and was instrumental in helping me land the role.
Did you get the chance to speak with previous Glindas?
I’ve met them all, with the exception of Kristin Chenoweth, and we’ve sort of established a Bubble Sisterhood. Each of them has been extremely gracious with their time in helping me prepare for the role. I also worked before with Jackie Burns, who plays Elphaba, in 2011 on the national tour, which helped us establish a really special bond, so things have come full circle.
Where you a fan of the Wizard of Oz growing up?
Absolutely, I watched it all the time.
Are there ever any subtle changes to the show?
Not from a script or musical perspective, but no two shows are ever exactly the same as far as the actors are concerned. How we interact with each other is always organic and we strive to be in the moment at all times, which often offers a slightly different take on the role. The audience is sharing a singular experience.
Describe the camaraderie among the cast.
We love each so much that it’s a fantastic environment. We all have little rituals backstage, such as high-fiving one another in order to keep things as light as possible.
What has this role meant to you?
It has been a deep personal journey and I have experienced a transformation at the core and a change for good. The message behind the play of joy, hope, and redemption while putting love at the center of everything has helped me discover certain core convictions.
Photography by Joan Marcus