DIVA TALK: The Elphabas of Wicked; Looking Back at a Decade of Interviews

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25 Oct 2013

Shoshana Bean
photo by Joan Marcus

Shoshana Bean, interview from March 2009

How she originally get involved with Wicked
Bean: I had gone in [to audition] a couple times for [Wicked]. I think I went in for Nessarose one time. I went in for the original standby. I actually got cast in the ensemble in the original company. I was in the ensemble at Hairspray at the time, and I was covering a bunch of roles, so I felt it was a lateral move. I was actually getting ready to leave Hairspray to work on my music. I just thought I didn't want to get involved in a whole other show, so I didn't end up doing it, and Kristy Cates got it, so it was kept in the family!

And then when Eden [Espinosa] was getting ready to leave to do Brooklyn, they called [and asked] if I wanted to come and standby. That way I could kind of work — be at work technically — but still work on my music. Then I fell in love with the role, and I [felt], "I really don't want to leave," and then I got to take over.

What she learned from playing the role:
Bean: What didn't I learn? I learned so much about myself as a person, as a performer. I learned about drawing boundaries, priorities. I learned even more vocal technique than I already did know. I think there's a challenge not only in learning that role, but for me the challenge was I had to figure out how to replace somebody, which is a really tricky situation. Having been in Hairspray and seeing people replace before and having been an understudy, I just did my best to go on. You bring a little bit of your own spin to the role, but basically you have to fill a hole and make sure the machine keeps running. You can't make it your own too much, so that's how I felt when I first took over for Idina [Menzel]. I didn't want to make waves. I just wanted to make sure that the machine kept running and that I didn't upset anything. And that only took me so far because I couldn't re-create her performance as much as I tried to. . . .At some point I had to do the work and make it my own. I learned how to do that. It was all sort of extraordinary circumstances and incredible learning experiences. I still think that the amount of work that [that role] is and the amount of endurance [it takes is like] running a marathon or lifting weights. You just get stronger and stronger the more you do it. Experiences and opportunities like that just make you better and stronger.

About the sisterhood that exists among the women who have played Elphaba:
Bean: There is! It builds as time goes by because we all share secrets on how we make it through. I remember Lisa Brescia called me when she first started. She's like, "How do you hit that low note in 'I'm Not That Girl'?" I was like, "Oh, sister, I had the worst time with that. Here's my trick." Or Kristy called me and said, "I had to finally call out at intermission. How did you deal with that?" They picked some of the strongest women out there — like Kristy [Cates] and Julia [Murney] and Stephanie [J. Block] and Eden — and they're some of the coolest chicks, too. Our paths cross very frequently. Eden and I just hiked last week, and Kristy's one of my best friends from way back, so it's a cool group of women.

To read the full interview, click here.


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