After only three weeks in the show together, it's clear that Broadway's newest Elphaba and Glinda, Rachel Tucker and Kara Lindsay, respectively, have a bond that will last "for good." Tucker, who played the role of Elphaba for over 1,000 performances in the West End, joins Lindsay, who rose to fame in the hit Disney musical Newsies and has been playing the role of Glinda on Broadway since December.
The two leading ladies were squealing with excitement backstage at the Gershwin Theatre after reuniting in the hallway moments before the interview. Lindsay had just taken a few personal days off from the show and arrived at the theatre directly from the airport. The two actresses were giggling, hugging and catching up while we settled into Lindsay's dressing room to talk about their journey with the show, maintaining their personal lives and who the best Fiyero kisser is.
Did you guys know each other before the show?
RT: Why did I have to think about that?
KL: Well, you get to know each other quickly in these two roles. I mean, we've only been doing it for…
RT: Three weeks?
KL: I think so. So it kind of feels like it's been…
RT: Three months. Three long months. [Both laugh.]
KL: We rehearsed a lot before she joined, but I knew of her because she's famous!
KL: You ARE! So, I was nervous.
RT: And I heard about Kara and how amazing she was, and I was very excited!
KL: They're all lies. [Laughs.]
Did you get to watch a performance before you joined the company?
RT: Yes. So I got to see her doing her thing.
KL: You and your husband came.
RT: Yes, we watched it during rehearsals, and it blew my mind.
[No Good Deed" piano begins rehearsing on stage and underscoring the rest of the interview.]
Rachel, you've gotten to work with so many different Glindas. It must be so different each time.
RT: Yeah, it is. What's so great about working with so many different Glindas [is that] they bring their own stamp to it each time. You know there are a few people that "copy," and you can kind of tell if someone has seen something and copied it…I'm speaking from previous experience.
KL: Yeah, right. She's like [points to herself.]
RT: But it's wonderful when I come here and everything she [Kara] does, I don't think I've ever seen, and each night she does something different…
KL: I definitely copy some things.
RT: …and actually makes me laugh on stage.
KL: That's my goal, to make you…
RT: Genuinely make me laugh?
KL: It's fun!!
RT: Well, it's great because she is supposed to make Elphaba smile, and entertain her and make her at ease, so she does her job very well.
KL: Aww. Thank you! So do you! When she first joined, I told her, "I'm so sorry! I think I'm just watching you!" I was so amazed by what was happening. I was just like an audience member. On the stage.
Did you ever get caught in the moment?
KL: Yeah, I just had to remember that I'm also in front of thousands of people, so I have to get into gear…
RT: Stop watching. [Both laugh.]
KL: She's amazing and [it's] like a lesson watching her.
Watch Tucker sing a stripped-down rendition of "Defying Gravity" with former Fiyero Aaron Tveit.
There are so many unauthorized, bootleg videos circulating of performances from Wicked. Have you ever felt pressure to conform to the performances of previous Glindas and Elphabas?
KL: I think it behooves us to not copy and to make it our own because we can never be Kristin Chenoweth or Idina Menzel. To really make it honest and truthful, we have to bring a bit of ourselves to the role. I think there is a sort of pressure to do justice to what Idina and Kristen have brought to the roles, but I also don't think copying benefits the story or the show at all. [Then] we're just being false.
RT: The point of Elphaba is that she has to stand up to truth and honesty and be honorable to herself. I, Rachel, can only do that if I'm being honest with myself. And I approach each line as close to as I, Rachel, would do it. I don't tend to want to emulate something [from] another performance because it's been done. There are a million different ways of saying each of these lines and so they should be said a million different ways.
KL: Well, there is a pressure, because it has been running for 12 years, and the fans expect something, so we want to make them proud of the show that they're such fans of.
Rachel, what I really want to know is: Do you feel pressure to option up?
RT: Absolutely not. Well, What do you mean by that?
KL: Like, vocally. Which she does! She pulls out things, and I'm like "WHAT?"
RT: I know what you're saying…and I have had times, where I've thought, "I'm going to pull this out of the bag tonight!" but, genuinely, generally, really not. I do it when I feel it.
Where were you when you found out you had been cast in Wicked? I know you both did the show before Broadway, so we can do first round [Kara was in the national tour and Rachel was in the West End] and second round [Broadway]!
KL: I was in Queens. [Laughs.] I was doing Newsies at the time, and I auditioned for [Wicked]. I had been asking to go in for this role for a really long time and it's never really worked out, so I didn't have my hopes high. [When] I found out I got it, I was freaking out! I went out on the second national tour, and then I found out about Broadway when I was home [from the tour]. I had a few personal days and my mom was [in] a really big surgery when I found out, so I was happy but I was like, "This is a horrible time!" But then when she woke up, I got to tell her the good news, which was really fun to be able to do that! She was like, "Whaaaaaaat?" and then that made her happy, so that was good.
RT: First time? Ok, this was my lucky third time trying to go in for Elphaba, so I was really hoping that this was it. It was about five days before Christmas, and it was the best, most incredible Christmas present! Job in the bag! We could then go on a honeymoon because of it! We went on a honeymoon to Thailand for three weeks because we were starting in February, so [it was] great timing! And then, this time around, I was doing a play in London and I got a call from my agent just as I walk in the door saying, "Yep, it's official." It had been on the cards for a couple of months, but it wasn't official, so that was great!
You guys are both married and Rachel, you have a son, right?
RT: Yes, I have a son; a two-and-a-half year old boy.
How do you maintain your personal lives? How are you a mom and doing one of the hardest female roles on Broadway?
RT: Well, it's kind of just…
KL: That's what I ask her!
RT: …it just happens. It's like owning a dog. Well, it's not that easy! [Everybody laughs.] What do you do when you go to the show? What do you do with a responsibility? He is a huge responsibility and I adore being a mother, but when I go to work, I go to work and he's at home with his dad. He goes to nursery school now, and I have a great husband who looks after him. He lets me sleep in, and he works around us, and that's always been the case. That's what I pass on to Kara for her future children, or anybody! It's so doable. It can be tough…but it's doable.
And what about you, Kara? How do you balance personal life and…
KL: I don't have a baby. [Everybody laughs.]
Do you have a dog?
KL: No, I do want a dog. Kevin [Massey, Kara's husband]…he doesn't want one yet.
RT: I thought that was your dog's name: Kevin!
KL: No, I was just saying that he doesn't want one yet!
So, Kara, how do you balance personal life?
KL: Well, Kevin's on tour [starring in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder]. He just started, so it's really just trying to plan. We're trying to go every four weeks being able to be together and see each other. The long-distance part is hard. I was just on the tour with Wicked and he was just here [on Broadway], so we just reversed roles. We're just figuring that out, and that's hard. There's a lot of travel involved.
RT: And trust. [Both laugh.]
KL: Right, and trust. Which, I do.
We're sitting in your dressing room right now. Is there anything special that you keep in your dressing rooms? What's the most important thing to you?
RT: I have a photo of my mom and dad singing on my wedding day.
KL: What? Do they sing?
She was in a band with her family when she was younger!
RT: But this was just them having a drink and a little sing song at my wedding. And her [mom's] jewelry because my mom's passed away, so the jewelry she gave me is very special. And a photo of my son and my husband.
KL: Yeah, I guess I have to say the same. My mom and my sister and my gram and then Kev.
RT: It's family, isn't it? It's just real life.
KL: Yeah, it's kind of a reminder and brings you back to center. It's nice.
RT: Yeah, it does.
Do you guys have any pre-show rituals that you do?
KL: Just socializing.
RT: This is the most socialized dressing room I have ever been in. There's always people chillin' and chattin'.
KL: Well, we have our doors open,and we're chatting and…
RT: Yeah, we open our doors. I also have to do a really good [vocal] warm-up.
KL: Well, me too. I go into the bathroom and try to get my voice high, because it's not, generally. [Laughs.] And gingers... Ginger chews! I always have one in my mouth. At all times. Poor Kate [Kara's dresser]. She's like "here" [extends her hand out]. That's why I have cavities. [Laughs.]
Did you discover anything new about the role when returning to Broadway? Rachel, you did it in the West End for over 1,000 performances, and Kara you toured around the country, so was there anything new you realized when you went back into rehearsals for Broadway?
RT: What was lovely was having done it for as long as I had done it in London and then coming to Broadway and having it redirected via the original creative [team]! That was a bigger insight for me. The guys on tour get Lisa [Leguillou], who is our original creative and resident director. We don't necessarily get that in London. I got it from the horse's mouth over here. I loved [that] there were a couple of little corners that I chose differently in London than what she wanted here, simply because that had been passed on. Knowledge is key and there was a lot of of, "Oh, that's what that's supposed to be!" and, "Oh! I get it!" Like where the foundation of the dance that Elphaba does comes from. So I had that [working with the original creatives], and it was lovely to find little different corners and a deeper Elphaba because of that.
Kara, what about you? Did you find anything new?
KL: I think what's interesting about a New York audience as opposed to a tour audience is that on tour you're going to a lot of cities where people normally wouldn't be able to go see a Broadway show. They're louder and more responsive, although right now they've been pretty responsive [on Broadway]. I think a New York audience can tend to be more critical, and I felt that immediately. It was jarring coming from tour where generally the audiences were so excited and accepting and here, this is THE Broadway theatre. This is it and you better be good. So, I felt that pressure but it kind of helped in a way. Well, at first it didn't because I felt it [the pressure] and I kind of….
RT: ….clammed up?
KL: Yeah, I clammed up a little bit, but I was just like, let's go back to square one and just listen and respond and just tell the story and be with the Elphaba and do it for her. If I do it for her then it's honest and it doesn't matter if they're like "Yeah!!" [makes big applause sound] or…
RT: Or not.
KL: Yeah. You kind of have to start over a little bit, which is good.
RT: Also, on that, it's made me remember not to necessarily listen to the audience. It is doing this and they're not there, regardless of how responsive of an audience or not so responsive they are.
So we're going to get some green dirt. Who is best onstage Fiyero kisser?
KL: They're all great. I don't know! I always feel awkward with onstage kisses.
RT: Oh, I don't!
KL: That's perfect then, because I don't really have to do it!
RT: Of my Fiyeros? Oh God, I know this! [Mumbles through names] No, not Wallace, not Lee…
KL: Jonah's going to kill you.
RT: Jonah? Oh, I'll work on him. Don't worry. [Everybody laughs.] Probably Lewis Bradley.
KL: Did he give you tongue?
RT: [Laughs.] No!
Where's the weirdest place you've ever found green?
This question is for you, too, Kara! You've probably found green, too!
KL: Oh yeah, on my back all the time! Well, right now it's on my shoulder. It's a little handprint.
RT: On my son. [Everybody laughs.]
What's the craziest mishap that's happened?
KL: On tour there were a lot. The bubble didn't go down for the bows, so I was just up there presenting everybody for their bows. We're supposed to hug for the bow,≠ and I just went like [makes a presentation gesture]. They had to inch [the bubble] down. Everybody was gone to dinner.
RT: Oh, I don't know what mishap!
KL: Did the levitator ever not work?
RT: Oh yes, the levitator hasn't worked when I fly, so I've had to run to the front of stage and sing high and fly with my voice.
KL: Oooooooh! I've never seen that!
What's your favorite scene?
KL: "For Good."
RT: Mine's "Popular."
RT: I look forward to it EVERY night.
KL: You do? You get a candy corn [motions over to candy dish]. I love "For Good" because it's so simple and I think it stands alone.
Have you guys done anything to bond as castmates outside of rehearsals and performances?
KL: We haven't had a chance yet…
RT: We're just getting settled in.
KL: But I think we might go see Hamilton together.
RT: YES! We might go see Hamilton — hey-ho!
KL: We're going to go on a date!
Well, if you get a third ticket, I'll be there!
(Yvette Kojic is a performer, producer, director, daytime TV enthusiast and the groups director at Broadway Workshop. Follow her on Twitter at @yvettekojic.)