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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Stephanie J. Block

Stephanie J. Block Photograph: Joan Marcus (right)


Stephanie J. Block (2007–08)


You did the initial Wicked readings, and then you came back to the role in 2005 for the national tour. How had Elphaba changed during that time?
When we first did the reading, Elphie was very purposeful, angsty, very driven and heavy. And then, I think, because of Kristin Chenoweth’s light and joy, they had to add a lot of humor to Elphaba, to offset those powerful moments. Elphaba became more balanced over the course of the piece, so she got a lot more heart and humor.

Can you give me a job description for playing Elphaba?
This can be answered in so many ways. You’ve gotta have the vocal chops for it. That score is no joke! And to have the endurance to do it eight times a week for at least nine months to a year. And I think every girl—every single girl, no matter how confident or where you are in the popularity spectrum—you’re going to relate to Elphie in some way. When the show opened, she became a fully developed and full-spectrum character. We like to joke and say little girls would either recognize themselves as Glinda or Elphaba, but really, there’s an Elphie in everybody! We’ve all had an experience where we’d doubted ourselves in some way and had to rise up. And that’s part of the success of the show and why fans have shown up multiple times. Anybody that has to play Elphie recognizes a bit of themselves in the character.

Which part of you is in the character?
I always really connected deeply and heavily to “I’m Not That Girl.” It goes back to me being an insecure 12-year-old girl and looking into the mirror going, “I don’t look like anybody else.” I did a lot of workshops and early readings and ended up not being chosen for the part, which was devastating. And so when I finally did that role, it was such a beautiful place to be. Stephen Schwartz said to me, “The way you connect with that song, it goes beyond what’s on the page.”

If you could give Elphaba advice, what would you say?
That she needs to redefine the word troubled or the word bad. And that she’s not an outcast. She’s unique. Kind of taking these labels that have been placed upon her, and all you have to do is flip it around and make a powerful compliment. You can be called unique instead of strange—just that slight switch makes you feel proud of who you are, as opposed to it being a detriment. Other than her being green, she’s the everygirl!

If you had Elphaba’s magic power, what would you do with it?
For me, I guess that question can be answered differently every day. I think I would want to use the powers for stillness in myself. The world is moving so fast, and everyone’s into their social media and cell phone. In the beginning of the show, Elphaba protects her sister, and everyone stops and retreats. I think we all need to stop and take a couple of steps back. And, of course, flying! Who doesn’t want that freedom? It seems like the obvious answer, but it’s still pretty romantic.

Where does Elphaba rank in the roles you’ve played?
She is certainly in the top three. When I was playing her and was exhausted, it was a love-hate relationship. But when I looked back, it was so amazing. There’s a sorority of Elphabas, and we really do think of us as a club. It’s this tight-knit sorority. There’s a great fondness when we see each other play the role. Being a part of creating it, and then to get to witness the success a decade into it and to see that it’s still touching audiences, you really know you were part of something exceptional and very special. And certain days, Elphie’s No. 1!

It sounds a bit like giving birth.
That’s the perfect analogy! Playing Elphaba is like being in labor! When you’re going through it, you think, This is terrible! My body hurts! And out comes the gift, and you go, I would do that again in a heartbeat. As soon as it’s over, you have amnesia.

Which Fiyero wore the pants best?
I should say my husband [Sebastian Arcelus]! Have you seen Sebastian’s back end? It’s fantastic! Those white pants and that burgundy vest, whoo! The designer, Susan Hilferty, designed those pants for Sebastian’s ass, and he looked divine. That’s one of the assets that got me to marry him.

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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