As the overture begins at Broadway’s Wicked, backstage at the Gershwin Theatre, Hannah Corneau is standing in the eye of a storm. Minutes away from making her entrance as Elphaba, Corneau is surrounded by her dresser, makeup artist, and hair supervisor. It’s a fast-paced transformation, but Corneau is focused.
Then again, playing Elphaba has been a full circle moment for the New York native. “I saw the original cast and was forever changed. I always have identified with Elphaba, and certainly as a young performer, I looked up to Idina Menzel," she says. "It’s just an incredible honor to be able to play this part because this role, this story, this music is so impactful to so many lives. It is an honor and a responsibility. I hope to be carrying out a good legacy.”
And it’s quite a legacy. Still, Corneau was determined to discover her own version of the character. “I think my Elphaba is cerebral. She is strong. And she is certainly not concerned with what others think of her. She is not afraid to speak for what she believes in,” she notes. “Luckily, that’s in the writing but still, I was like, ‘OK, I have to harness who I am, what I sound like, and go from there.’”
It’s a big job but just as much as Corneau has put into the role, Elphaba has also given back to the actor: “Wicked has changed my life and enabled me to see how strong I am,” she says. Then it's time for her entrance, and another chance to defy gravity.