Wicked on Broadway: Talking to the 15 wonderful witches

We got up close and personal with all 15 emerald divas who played Elphaba in the Broadway smash Wicked.

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Shoshana Bean

Shoshana Bean Photograph: Joan Marcus (right)


Shoshana Bean (2005–06)


You replaced Idina Menzel. What was your approach to the role?
In the beginning, it was daunting for me, I was so overwhelmed. I replaced Idina, so I just really thought it was safe to emulate what I’d seen. It was safe, and it was working—let’s not reinvent the wheel. But at some point, it just doesn’t work. It’s not authentic. It doesn’t land. And I remember [director] Joe Mantello asking me, “When are you going to make this your own?” That’s the best gift that any actress can bring to the role, which is to be exactly who they are. No one else can do it. I just drew on myself, and I brought my life onstage every night. Do I know what it’s like to be green or fly? No, but I have other things that I struggle with that I can bring to the table. I just made it as personal as possible. To me, that creates a very authentic and moving experience for an audience.

After having been in Wicked, does it change the way you view The Wizard of Oz?
You know what? I don’t think I’ve sat through the movie since then. I do associate myself with her when I see her image, like in a store or something. But I think they’re just so different! The film witch is depicted as this ugly and angry thing. But if you know Elphaba and have been in the show, it just doesn’t feel like the same person. I get that it’s supposed to be, but I don’t see it!

What would you do if you had Elphaba’s powers?
What would I do?… I would use it mostly for transportation purposes. I could be home really quickly to visit my family. You know how whenever you’re at the airport you just want to snap your fingers and be at your destination? So I would say transportation. And I’d manipulate people’s feelings, too, if there were people I wanted to do things for me.… But transportation would be the main thing. Then I’d get greedy with it, change people’s minds. [Laughs]

Where do you keep your Wicked memorabilia?
I have so much stuff, I probably could have had a Wicked room. On my wall, I have a really cool painting someone did of me, like a headshot of me and they made me look green. Most of the stuff is in my mom’s house in Portland [Oregon]. But a lot of it over the years has been donated for auction purposes. A lot of it has been used for a higher purpose.

What’s the best thing about performing in Wicked?
The best thing was singing Stephen Schwartz’s music every night. I still don’t get sick of it. And the reach that Wicked gave me, all the people…who are still in my fan base. And it still draws people in. They’re paying attention and they’re listening, and it gives me a platform to be a positive influence. It’s been an amazing spiderweb of a network. They’re incredibly loyal and educated fans. That’s a really amazing gift.

And the worst?
The worst part, ugh, that’s hard.… I can’t honestly say there was a worst part. I can’t. I only had benefits. I don’t have negative things to say about it. I guess the worst thing is missing that family, having somewhere to go six days a week. That would be the worst part. Missing it.

Do you use the Wicked shade of green in your daily life?
Not in my daily life. But I have painted a few people since I left the show. I had a palette. But I gave it away, to, like, a charity auction or something. You watch that done to your face every night, and it’s just basic makeup. There was one time in Toronto where I had to do it myself because our makeup artist wasn’t available at the time. So I know the technique. I did it for a benefit one time and for friends for Halloween.

Would you dress up as Elphaba for Halloween?
Oh, God no!

Wicked on Broadway: Tickets, reviews and video


  SLIDE SHOW: View all 15 Elphabas as one slide show

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12 comments
Kenia
Kenia

Of course who watched Wicked usually prefer that one that you saw, I don't think someone got the luck of watching all of the from Broadway and UK versions. I've watched and listening some of them, and of course all are great, is Wicked they wouldn't choose a bad singer, but Idina Menzel's is the best with no doubt I'm in love with the book and of all actress she is the one that meke me belive in Elphaba, and she has the voice, THE voice, when you read the book where anyone else could sing after listening to Elphaba's voice is how we saty after listen to Idina's. It's all the package that makes her the best.

sherry
sherry

Jackie is beautiful and amazing inside and out!!

Kate
Kate

@maxii rose: because Kerry was in the original UK cast. She was Idina's understudy. Great article!

maxii rosee
maxii rosee

I thought that Idina had originated the role of Elphaba in the uk and us so why is Kerry saying that she was in the original wicked production at uk!!!

Andrew Wicked
Andrew Wicked

OMG! Only 15 Elphaba' s ?! Wow! #wickedrules

Louis
Louis

Willemijn was and still is the best Elphaba. I've seen her performing three times at Scheveingen in the Netherlands and it was three times Wicked! I hope to see her in London West End too.

Oos
Oos

What about kristy cates? She played Elphaba on broadway And on the Chicago production on was in the original cast!

Mariuca
Mariuca

The article is well written and the beautiful actress is so sweet, also! But! The girls actresses spoke about their roles as if the witches were fairies!OMG! The real witches are bad, evil and they do good only for themselves! Dont let the people be fooled! Thats a fairy who God would love to become true, maybe-I mean, the witches be so strong and their power put it in the service of another..but thats only a fairy..

James H
James H

I know this is the witches on broadway but I would love to hear what the witches around the world have to say to these questions, particularly the Australian witches.

Rachael
Rachael

Idina is AMAZING!!!!! FYI, Mandy you signed my Alphaba doll! She sits in my family room

Logan Stein
Logan Stein

A great and unique article. A fitting celebration on an important milestone for the show. How great to take a look back and realize that only 15 amazing actresses have had the privilege. How wonderful to see how the answers varied.

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