DIVA TALK: Chatting with Wicked's Ashford, Bean, Espinosa, Murney and Thompson

By Andrew Gans
24 Oct 2008

Jennifer Laura Thompson
(Glinda on Broadway)

Question: What is the most memorable stage door moment/fan comment that you experienced during your run in Wicked?
Jennifer Laura Thompson: I could feel the impact the show had on its audience every time I exited the stage door. The fans were so in awe of the characters and those of us who were lucky enough to play them. In tears, one fan told me that I had changed her life "for good." She had been suicidal earlier that year, and Wicked showed her that there was goodness in everyone, more importantly in herself.

Question: What is the funniest stage mishap that stands out in your mind from your Wicked run?
Thompson: It happened on more than one occasion, but the first time that Elphaba's pink flower barrette failed to fasten to her hair, at that moment it became my mission to make the faulty piece stick. Before we knew it I had climbed on top of Idina [Menzel], and the scene became all about the silly flower in her hair. I wouldn't give up. We both had a good laugh.

Jennifer Laura Thompson in Wicked
photo by Joan Marcus
Question: Would you say you're more Elphaba or more Glinda in real life?
Thompson: Definitely more Elphaba — I have never honestly felt as confident, polished and perky as Glinda.

Question: Why do you think Wicked has become such a hit all around the world?
The message speaks to everyone — that outer appearances are just that. We all struggle with this issue at every stage of our lives.

(Thompson received a Tony nomination for her performance as Hope in Urinetown and was also seen on Broadway in Footloose and Off-Broadway in Little Fish. She appeared in the Encores! mounting of Strike Up the Band! and in the national tours of Carousel, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.)

[Wicked plays the Gershwin Theatre, which is located in Manhattan at 222 West 51st Street. The cast is currently headed by Kerry Ellis as Elphaba and Kendra Kassebaum as Glinda. For more information visit www.wickedthemusical.com.]

Buy this Limited Collector's Edition
Speaking of Wicked, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Broadway hit on Oct. 30, the trademark yellow masthead of the musical's Playbill cover will be printed green for one performance only. The green Playbill banner will mark the first time in the publication's history that the color has been changed for a particular production. In addition to audiences attending the Oct. 30 performance at the Gershwin Theatre — which will co-star Kerry Ellis as Elphaba and Kendra Kassebaum as Glinda — Wicked fans can also purchase the limited edition Playbill by visiting the Playbill Store. Pre-orders are currently being accepted for the commemorative Playbill — priced $11.95 — which ships the week of Nov. 3.

Tony Award winner Judy Kaye, who played vocally challenged soprano Florence Foster Jenkins Off-Broadway and subsequently on, will reprise her performance for Baltimore audiences this spring at Centerstage. Stephen Temperley's Souvenir — which replaces the previously announced Theresa Rebeck play, The Understudy — will be seen at the Maryland venue April 24-May 24, 2009. Vivian Matalon, who directed the New York productions, will again direct, and Donald Corren, who originated the role of Cosmé McMoon, will co-star with Kaye. Prior to Centerstage, the production will be seen at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater. For tickets visit www.centerstage.org or call (410) 332-0033.

Gypsy's Alison Fraser and recent Xanadu star Mary Testa will return to the Laurie Beechman Theatre in November following two sold-out concerts at the intimate nightspot in the past few weeks. Their show, Together Again, celebrates the work of Fraser's late husband, composer Rusty Magee. New show times are Nov. 10 at 7 PM and Nov. 24 at 10 PM. Part of the Voices from the Great White Way series, Fraser and Testa's concert features a four-piece band led by Allison Leyton-Brown and special guest Annie Golden. The Laurie Beechman Theatre is located within the West Bank Cafe at 407 West 42nd Street. There is a $25 cover charge; for reservations call (212) 695-6909.

Christine Pedi, who was last seen on Broadway in Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio (she lent her voice to several of the radio callers), will also play the Beechman. Pedi will offer a holiday-themed show, Yule Be Swell, Yule Be Great, Nov. 30 and Dec. 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 at 7 PM and Dec. 1 at 8 PM. Audiences can expect to hear Pedi's impersonations of Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Joan Rivers and Julie Andrews, among others, as well as her acclaimed version of "12 Divas of Christmas." For tickets, priced $55, call (212) 279-4200 or visit www.TicketCentral.com.

Actors from the Broadway casts of Avenue Q, Billy Elliot, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, Xanadu and The Color Purple will take part in a one-night-only production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Directed by David Lefkowich, the benefit performance will be held Dec. 15 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College. Show time is 8 PM. The cast will feature Tom Deckman as Snoopy, Morgan Karr as Charlie Brown, Matt Crowle as Linus, Carmen Ruby Floyd as Lucy, David Larsen as Schroeder and Kenita R. Miller as Sally. Jonathan Rose will be the musical director. Producers are Philip Accorso, Frances Mercanti-Anthony and Lefkowich for The Friends in Theater Company. The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College is located in Manhattan at 899 10th Avenue. Tickets, priced $35-$100, are available by calling (212) 279-4200 or by visiting www.ticketcentral.com.

Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole and her 42nd Street co-star Billy Stritch will return to Birdland in November. Ebersole, who has been cast in the forthcoming Broadway revival of Blithe Spirit, and Stritch will play the famed jazz club Nov. 26-29. Show times are 8:30 and 11 PM nightly. The duo, according to press notes, will "cover cabaret standards, all the while bringing their own lively and exciting personal touches to the classics." Birdland is located in Manhattan at 315 West 44th Street. There is a $40 cover charge ($50 for orchestra seating); call (212) 581-3080 for reservations or visit www.birdlandjazz.com.

And, finally, Tony, Grammy, Oscar and Emmy Award winner Liza Minnelli will return to Broadway in Liza's at the Palace . . .!, a two-week concert engagement that will begin performances Dec. 3. Tickets go on sale to the general public Oct. 26. The limited engagement will play Broadway's Palace Theatre through Dec. 14. Ron Lewis directs and choreographs. Minnelli will be joined onstage by Cortés Alexander, Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina and Johnny Rodgers. Conductor/drummer Michael Berkowitz and pianist/musical supervisor Billy Stritch will lead a 12-person orchestra, and the concert will be scripted by Minnelli and Tony winner David Zippel. The evening, according to press notes, "will feature an incomparable Minnelli songfest including many of her personal favorites and signature hits, followed by a dance-filled tribute to the groundbreaking late-1940s nightclub act of Minnelli's godmother, Kay Thompson." Concertgoers can expect to hear Minnelli's renditions of "Cabaret," "Maybe This Time" and "New York, New York." Minnelli will also "pay an affectionate salute to her godmother, the late Kay Thompson," who coached Minnelli's late mother, the legendary Judy Garland. The Thompson tribute will include musical hits (with the original vocal arrangements) from Thompson's act, including "I Love a Violin," "Clap Yo' Hands," "Jubilee Time" and “Hello Hello." The Palace Theatre is located at Broadway and 47th Street. Tickets, priced $25-$125, will be available by calling (212) 307-4100 or (800) 755-4000. For more information visit www.lizasatthepalace.com.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.