Photographs by Heather Gershonowitz
Seeing Allsun O'Malley and Talia Suskauer laugh, eat pizza, and pose for photos in their matching Hotel Edison bathrobes, you don't need witchcraft to know you’re watching two life-long best friends together. “You know when someone just gets you?” asks Suskauer. “People would say things and we would just kind of connect back to each other…almost like twin telepathy.”
O’Malley and Suskauer—who are both currently appearing in the Broadway production of Wicked, Suskauer as Elphaba and O’Malley, a swing—met freshman year at Pennsylvania State University outside the cafeteria where they say instantly connected. “I remember saying in my head, ‘This one’s gonna be mine. I’m gonna claim this one. She’s gonna be my best friend’” laughs Suskauer. “And it happened!” added O’Malley, “I knew that night, too.”
The two musical theatre majors bonded over their big Broadway dreams. “Everyone’s very excited in musical theatre school, and you start talking about what musicals you want to be in and your dream roles,” says O’Malley. “And we would have these nights where we would sit in one of our dorm rooms and order food and watch a bootleg together,” adds Suskauer. And those bootlegs? They were of Wicked, of course. It was those nights together, watching and imagining performing on the Gershwin stage, that their Wicked journey together began. The two spent the following years at Penn State performing duets from the Stephen Schwartz musical—even for their voice juries. “We sang ‘Loathing,’” remembers O’Malley.
For Suskauer, singing from the Wicked score was a necessity—an important part in manifesting playing the green witch herself. “I'm someone that really believes that if you don't believe it, that if it's not in your realm of possibility, it's not going to happen for you,” she says. “I was like, I know I'm going to play Elphaba. This is something that I know I can do. I know I have to do.”
“It’s true!” O’Malley breaks in, “Talia was very much the type of person who said ‘No, you need to speak it into existence or it's not going to happen.”
But speaking it into existence wasn’t the only part of Suskauer’s manifestation rituals. O’Malley says that Suskauer also encouraged visualizing the dream. “I mean, the amount of times we were in New York and we had to walk by the Gershwin. We would go out of our way, seriously blocks out of our way, to specifically walk by the Gerswhin. We have a video of it.”
It all paid off for Suskauer in 2019, when she was cast as Elphaba in the national tour of Wicked. O’Malley recalls what it was like watching Suskauer soar, literally, for the first time during “Defying Gravity.” “There is nothing like seeing your best friend's dream come true. Someone who you love so deeply living their best life. That was one of the most special moments in my life was watching you fly on tour,” she tells Suskauer, tears beginning to buld up. “It was really overwhelming in the best way possible. I don't know how much of her flight I actually saw because I was crying so hard. I was looking up to where she was and my eyes were just so full of tears,” O’Malley said, now holding Suskauer’s hand as she recounts the performance.
Suskauer played Elphaba until the tour’s shutdown during the pandemic, but returned to the role once the production relaunched in August of 2021. Then in 2022, after years of training and manifesting, Suskauer was offered the role of Elphaba on Broadway.
However, the pair’s dream was only half complete.
“I start my rehearsals [for the Broadway production] and then Allsun starts auditioning and starts getting called in [for Wicked]. And so this entire time I literally said to myself, ’This is it. We're doing this together. This is the time. This feels so right.’ I knew it in my core,” says Suskauer. “I had to get her on board, in her brain, or else it wasn't going to happen.”
“You did. You made me believe it,” agreed O’Malley. “You made me believe that I could do it. I don't know if I ever really believed it would happen, but you helped me believe that I could do it. That I was capable.”
“So after that, [Allsun] was auditioning and going through her callback process and I said to her, I said, ‘Listen, from now until the day you book it, do not FaceTime me. If you want to contact me, call me or text me. But if you FaceTime me, it's when you have your offer and that's how I will know that you've booked it. So a few weeks go by and I'm shopping on Fifth Ave., and I get a FaceTime call from her. I run out of the store and she was like, ‘I got it! I'm going be on Broadway in Wicked with you!’” Suskauer says, the two laughing together as they recall the moment.
“She's the most supportive friend any anyone could have. She's really special in that way,” O’Malley says smiling and looking back at her friend. “Being on stage with Talia and singing and looking up at her, is absolutely insane and it has not gotten old.”
“I mean, I got to watch my best friend make her Broadway debut by being next to her on stage. I got the best seat in the house. How freakin’ cool is it that?!” Suskauer says as she hops up on her knees on the bed. “In that first scene [at Shiz University], I rush down stage and come out and all the students are like ‘Oh, get away from me!’ And I'm supposed to not be very happy with them and the second that I saw her face, I literally involuntarily just lit up. I just smiled so big ‘cause there we were. Standing there. On stage. Together at Wicked.”
Photographed on location at the Manhattan's Hotel Edison, 228 W 47th St., New York, NY.