BWW Interview: Caroline Bowman Talks Getting Green as WICKED’s Newest Elphaba!
by Nicole Rosky of BroadwayWorld.com
WICKED just welcomed new cast members to the Gershwin Theatre last month. Caroline Bowman (Kinky Boots, Eva in the Broadway revival tour of Evita) stepped into the role of Elphaba, and Kara Lindsay (original cast of Broadway’s Newsies) assumed the role of Glinda, directly from playing the role on national tour. Kathy Fitzgerald returned to the Broadway company as Madame Morrible, a role she has played on Broadway and on national tour, and Matt Shingledecker (West Side Story) assumed the role of Fiyero. Two-time Tony Award Nominee Robin de Jesus (In the Heights, La Cage Aux Folles) stepped into the role of Boq.
Bowman recently chatted with BroadwayWorld about rejoining the cast, her take on the character, and so much more. Check out the full interview below! Click here to read BroadwayWorld’s interview with her WICKED counterpart, Kara Lindsay!
I know you’ve been back in the show for about a month now.. how has it been going so far?
It’s been good! I actually got thrown into it during the holiday schedule, so my first week was 11 shows in a row. [Laughs] So to say that I was thrown into it at the hardest time of the year is probably pretty accurate. But now I got that out of the way and I’m doing my first, normal, eight-show week and quite frankly, it feels easy by comparison! I think doing that, though it was tricky and hard to navigate, was probably the best way, because everything will feel lighter from here on out.
Many amazing actresses have gotten to play this part over the years, all of them giving her their own spin… How do you see her?
It’s funny, I actually got this question a lot when I did EVITA… so many iconic people have played both of these roles. I think I just have to remember that I’m me. I’m Caroline Bowman- no one else can do what I can do, and I can’t do what anyone else can do. I’m not trying to copy; I’m just trying to do what’s on the page. I’ve read the book, and even though the book and musical are very different, I came from doing EVITA, so I felt bad not reading the book! I’m just doing what feels right to me. I’m still discovering it. I feel like my first few weeks of performances were like my previews. I was discovering and feeling things out with the new people. My Elphaba is definitely based on my relationships with those other people. My relationship with Kara [Lindsay] is different from what it would be with anybody else, so my reactions are based on what she gives me in the moment. So I’m not trying to make it different. I’m just trying to be me!
I know that you played this part a few years ago and then spent some time on other projects. Has your take on the character shifted at all since then?
I was the understudy three years ago on Broadway, so I performed every night in the ensemble and understudied the role. I think the idea of being an understudy is just that when you go on you have to survive and make the show run smoothly and to do what the person you are understudying is doing. It’s definitely a different animal. It’s so hard! I give props to anyone who understudies big roles like this, because you live your life like, “Oh my god, I could go on tomorrow.” It’s so unexpected. I was really on top of it though!
I’ve never gone from being an understudy to taking over a role before, so it’s definitely a new skill. Now, I have to strip down what I knew before and get rid of that “I have to be here at this time” mentality. I have to brush that away, start fresh, and make it an organic move instead. Even though the movements are the same, I have to find a way to make that honest. Not that being an understudy isn’t honest, but it’s unnatural to be thrown into it like that. I was really diligent about making charts and things, but now that I know it all, I can fill in those gaps.
Elphaba has quickly become one of those truly iconic roles in musical theatre. Does that add an extra pressure in performing her every night?
Quite frankly, I’ve felt a lot of support. Yes, people will come and think what they want to think. They already have their favorite Elphaba! [Laughs] But the thing is, that fan-base is why the show has lasted so long. It’s not like I can hate them for it! I’m just trying to do the best I can do! I’m so honored and grateful and humbled to be able to play this role among so many other people who I look up to and admire in this business. I’m just trying to pay homage to the part that Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman created. I just want to play her to the best of my ability, Sure, I feel pressure, but in a good way. I want to go out there and do the best I can do every night. It’s good pressure.
Is there an aspect of performing this role that is more difficult than you expected it to be?
I think only time will tell! Last night for instance, was the first time that I felt like I was taking slower breaths. Just remembering to breath has taken time to figure out. I don’t even think about that. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve gotta go!” I slowed them down last night though and tried to take three deep breaths before “No Good Deed” or before I start wailing in “Defying Gravity.” Even that just helped me find my balance. You find the eye of the storm.
And also being a replacement is a different animal! You’re jumping on a train that’s already moving. You have to just jump on and keep going. It’s very difficult, because everyone has already established their thing all around you, and you’re still discovering how your show works: what you have to do to keep your stamina up, how to build your endurance. It’s definitely tricky. I think I’m figuring it out though!
What has it been like working with Kara [Lindsay] so far?
It’s been heaven! She is just delightful and loving and caring! She puts you before herself. It’s unbelievable. I had known her briefly before we started this contract together, but on the very first day of rehearsal I fell in love with her. And I want to protect her and it’s so amazing taking this journey with her every night. It’s a gift. We get to “For Good” and we cry every night! I don’t want to say goodbye to her! She’s a very special human and I’m extremely thankful to share the stage with her.
Do you have favorite moment in the show yet or does it change from night to night?
Even when I was an understudy, my favorite scene has been the one with Doctor Dillamond after the blood on the chalkboard. I feel like Elphaba discovers what her purpose is. She realizes that her purpose is to protect the Animals and be an advocate for them. It shifts then, because it’s not about just wanting to meet the Wizard…that’s not who she is. She’s not a selfish person, and she realizes that this is why she can meet him. She realizes her purpose for coming to Shiz.