BWW Interview - Debut of the Month - WICKED's Amanda Jane Cooper
Amanda Jane Cooper makes her Broadway debut as Glinda, "The Good Witch," in Wicked. The actress comes to the Great White Way directly from playing the role on the show's national tour. Featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, the Tony-Award winning musical is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West", an alternative telling of the iconic story of "The Wizard of Oz."
Today, Cooper speaks exclusively with BWW and tells us why she 'couldn't be happier' making her Broadway debut in this beloved musical!
[NOTE: BroadwayWorld's fabulous photographer Jennifer Brosky captures images of the Broadway stars profiled in our monthly column in a special photo shoot. Check out the pics of Ms. Cooper throughout the feature!]
You've now had the opportunity to play Glinda in several differeNT Productions of the show.
Yes, I had the opportunity to play Glinda back in 2011 on the show's 'Emerald City' tour for eight months, and then was able to come back to the role again in the show's 'Munchkinland' tour from November 2015 to March 2017. And then I had a little four month break and got to come here for the role again. I've just been really grateful to spend so much time with Glinda and to get to discover and learn and grow with her. And it's interesting to see how I've also evolved and therefore changed and grown in the role over the years. So it's just been a joy to really get to delve deeper and deeper into this character over time.
Do you find that you can relate to Glinda in any way?
I love that question and the answer is "yes"! I think that when we first meet Glinda she's not living as intentional of a life as she is when we find her at the end of the story. And over the past five years I've also had this huge life transformation. You know as humans, we're always in a growth process and I've sort of experienced the same pattern of going from not really being the most self-aware and not really being aware of other people's feelings and place in the world, and then getting to a much better place of understanding myself and the world and the equal importance of every single human on this planet.
And that of course is basically the lesson Glinda learns by the end of the story.
Absolutely! The transformation that she goes through because of her friendship with Elphaba, and because of the circumstances that she's put in, is so fun as an actor to go through. We first see her in college and then we see her go on to take a leadership position in Oz, and I love it. It's a thrill to go on that journey every night.
You are one of several new cast members who recently came into the show in a principal role. Did you all have time to rehearse with the entire cast?
Yes, we were able to rehearse with the whole ensemble, the whole cast, everybody who was already there, a good amount of times. We all felt really comfortable going in. Of course there were definitely some butterflies going into that first night, but we did feel very prepared as far as how much time we had with everyone. And it's really kind of fun because each person that is new has been part of the Wicked world before, so while we were new to this company we're not new to the show. So it gave us a little bit of comfort in rehearsals.
Actually a fun fact, Jackie Burns, who is playing Elphaba, was my first-ever Elphaba when I played Glinda back in 2011. Isn't that crazy? And she just elevates the role, she is so amazing and incredible. She was leaving the 'Emerald City' tour as I was coming in, so we got to have about six or seven weeks together. I can still remember our final performance together, we were just sobbing! So it's so crazy to be back with her six years later.
And with Kristen Martin who plays Nessa, we were just on tour together in 'Munchkinland' not too long ago, and with Ashley Parker Angel, I got to play with him for just a little bit in Charlotte when he came into the show for three weeks. So it's just been this grand reunion and so much fun!
What do you think it is about the story of Wicked that not only stands the test of time but also appeals to such a global audience?
Where do I even begin? There's so many components to that answer. You know it's such a compelling story, and people just want to come back and see it time and time again. I think part of it is that it is so filled with truth and all of these characters in this fantasy realm of Oz, every single storyline, every single conflict, every single decision that has to be made, are all based in truth and reality. And it's a story of forgiveness, a story of doing what is right versus what is popular. It's a story about asking questions, it's a story about humanity and the inherent dignity of each person. And all of that, combined with a sweeping score and the incredible book, and of course the Tony Award-winning costumes and the lighting design, the sets and the heart that is brought into it every night. Not to mention the component that the audience brings every night as well. So it's just a perfect combination of thrills and excitement, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it's a cathartic experience and it's really a thrill to be part of that.
And I think many of those themes that you just mentioned are arguably very relevant in today's times.
Absolutely! I think as humans, the more that we can bring awareness to our own patterns and to what is good and right and true and honorable and excellent, the better it will be for all of us. And you know that goes back to this life transformation that I've had, of just becoming more empathetic, and that's really part of the power of theater, to be able to explore that.
I understand there is a tradition that the out-going Glinda scrawls a message on the rafters that only the new Glinda can see as she descends from her bubble apparatus. Can you share the message that your predecessor, Kara Lindsay, wrote for you?
Let me just tell you, I love me some Kara Lindsay! She is amazing! We actually went to college together. She was a senior and I was a freshman, and I just remember meeting her and being so taken by not only her incredible talent, but also by her spirit and by her kindness. So she is just the best person to go through this with.
I want to give you her message verbatim, it's actually a verse from First Peter 1:6 and it reads, "So be truly glad, there is wonderful joy ahead." And she just knew that that would mean so much to me, which is why I think she chose that verse. And of course just to see her handwriting up there is also so beautiful and I'm really grateful for that. It's a nice thing to look at before I come down every night in that private moment, which is a moment that I love. It gives me a chance to settle in, and I say a prayer for everybody in the cast every single night and just emit an immense amount of gratitude for being there every single night.
Are you aware of the audience at that moment?
Well, you can't really see the audience but you can definitely sense their energy, so that always makes your heart flutter a little bit, that you get to share this with all of them. And what's so exciting is that you don't know if there's a person out there who is experiencing their very first Broadway show or if it's their first show ever of any kind. Or maybe this is their who knows how many number of times that they've returned to see Wicked. So it's very cool. And what I do know about this audience is that it is very diverse - you have people from every walk of life coming to see it.
Can you describe what it was like to make your Broadway debut in Wicked?
Ooooh! Can I just answer with that? [laughing] It was just surreal. It was thrilling. It was so fun. I had a bunch of family in the audience, my parents, my sister, my pastors from my church called Mosaic, Kim and Erwin McManus, who took a red-eye to come see me, which was such an honor. And I had two sets of family friends who have known me since I was in diapers. I also had Garett Hawe, who is an original NEWSIES cast member, he and I are really good friends from tour, so he was there for me, which was so beautiful. And we had some Munchkinlanders from tour take the train in from Philly for it. And so I felt all the love. That first entrance was just really full of love, so I was very grateful for that. Of course there were butterflies, but it was just an honor to join the incredible company at the Gershwin - they're all amazing!