BWW Interview: Amanda Fallon Smith of WICKED at Robinson Performance Hall
How many girls first fell in love with musical theatre through the introduction of Wicked. I'm afraid that's probably a number to big to calculate. But how many of those same girls were lucky enough to become part of this wonderful show? That number would be considerably smaller. In fact, the current Nessarose on the Wicked tour, played by Amanda Fallon Smith is one of those girls. Let her tell about her unusual path from the farm to the stage. Here is the charming and talented Amanda Fallon Smith.
What was your first experience seeing a live play or musical?
You want to know something kind of wild, it was Wicked. It was actually the first musical that I ever saw, I kid you not. It is so special to me in that sense because it was the first musical I ever saw. I grew up in a very rural farm town, Dade City, about an hour north of Tampa and there just wasn't a lot of drama or musical experiences. My cousin introduced us to the soundtrack of Wicked and my sister and I used to listen to it 24/7. So we knew that when it was coming to Tampa, we had to go see it and we did. I just remember being completely in awe of everything. Wicked has always been my favorite for that reason just because it was my first show and it resonated with me and I immediately got the theater bug and that's when I started theatre. For it to come back around and be my first big production that I'm a part of is really, really special for me.
Had you ever done anything on stage?
I think I did my sixth grade talent show. But other than that, no, I grew up on a farm and doing sports. I always loved music. I did chorus and I did children's choir at my church and things like that, but never quite to the magnitude of a full production.
So, the high school that you attended did they do a senior play or anything like that?
No, we did not even have a drama club. I know I was kind of lucky in a sense that we had a K through 12 community kids theatre group that I joined in high school that was the only real creative outlet that I had, well that and my voice teacher. So I was really lucky to have that because I was relatively green at the time I got out of high school looking into colleges. I got really lucky and got into my dream school, which is Carnegie Mellon for Musical Theatre and it seemed to go uphill from there. I feel grateful every day to be where I'm at.
So what was it like to come from a place where you had very little experience then attend Carnegie Mellon, where you're surrounded by people with lots of experience?
Oh my gosh everyone was just so insanely talented around me. But I will say that Carnegie was good about accepting people who really loved the work and loved to learn. People that weren't immediately perfect, because if you're already perfect you'ld be working professionally by then. I did feel pushed. I did feel encouraged. I felt challenged in a positive way by my teachers and by my classmates. Acting is so subjective and what resonates with me is always going to be different than what resonates with you. It's all about finding myself. So I still, to this day feel really lucky that they took a chance on me and I was able to have that experience, but I think that's what's so special. The fact that it kind of boils back down to Wicked and that's what started me off. Really, you know, we travel around, we are in larger cities, but I know we have people from all over that that drive five plus hours sometimes to come see your show. So whenever, if I'm getting a little cold or a little tired. I think of that little kid in the audience who maybe it's their first musical, and potentially changed the course of their life, you know, because that was absolutely me when this tour came around.
Was there a time that you realized that you wanted to be on stage and be a performer.
Oh, yeah, I started doing that K-12 theatre group when I was in eighth grade. But I was on the trajectory to go to med school. And I was a senior in high school, and I looked at my mom, and I said," I don't like blood and I don't want to be a doctor." And she's like," what do you want to do?" And I said, "I want to be on Broadway". And she's says, "Okay, what do we do?" I said," I don't know ". But I was really lucky to have such supportive parents.
I know that you were Miss Pennsylvania, What led you to do the pageants?
With the Miss America organization, we're really lucky to be able to compete in the state that we go to school because it's a scholarship organization. I did a few pageants in high school. I competed in Miss Florida actually, I think when I was 17, representing my home county And I did fairly well there as well. But when I came to Pennsylvania, I knew that I wanted to help put some of the dent in the tuition if I could,, so I I competed for their local and I won the title of Miss Southwestern Pennsylvania and then from there went to state and was able to secure that title and go onto Miss America which was such an interesting experience. The crazy thing about Miss America is I just told myself if I could win the talent award I would be ecstatic and that's exactly what happened.
Did the experience of being in the Miss America help you or give you some sort of an advantage as far as continuing in theater.
I mean, nothing is as scary now as walking in a swimsuit and heels in front of thousands of people. I think what's great about pageantry is that it does teach you certain elements like, confidence and poise and public speaking, which is obviously huge in being able to conduct interviews like this or talkbacks. I do feel confident in talking as myself as well as the characters. I am thankful for the experiences. I'm happy that was a chapter in my life that I have past now. It was a wonderful chapter that I will always cherish and the lessons that I learned but I'm very happy to be back in more of the theatrical element.
What was the audition process like for you getting this job on the Wicked tour?
So for me, I was actually away working on a contract in Florida at the Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota. I was there for five months. And while I was away, I got a call from my agent saying "the national tour of Wicked needs a new Nessa are you interested?" And I said "absolutely." So I ended up having to send in a self tape of my packet that he sent me that was one of the songs and some of the sides. So I sent that in, heard back from them, saying, they really love your tape, can you come up for a callback? So I ended up having to fly up on one of my off days. And what was funny is, this is all around the same time as I was ending that previous contract, so as soon as I ended that contract and flew back up to New York. I was in New York for one day when I got the call from my agent saying," I hope you haven't unpacked your bags because they need you in Denver next week." So I had five days basically to fly to Denver then I had two weeks to rehearse for Nessa before I was put into the show officially. It was a whirlwind of an experience but I will never forget it.
How has it been being on your first tour?
Oh, my gosh, every city is a whole learning experience. I think what's so cool is that visiting these places that I never probably would have thought to go, like to visit Seattle for vacation but now I the new biggest fan of the Pacific Northwest. Things like that, that I would never have known. Every city seems to have these really special iconic places, or foods, or experiences or sites. And I've really been trying to make a point to hit as many as I can. So that I can say that I really kind of adventured on this tour, which is really special.
I know you guys usually stay for a longer time in the cities, does that give you time to explore a little bit?
Because we're kept fairly busy with doing eight shows a week except on Monday's and the afternoons after the shows I always try new foods. You can catch me on a hike or at a museum. I'm always trying to get out there and explore as much as I can.
In doing my research, I think that you're a dog mom, right?
I am a dog mom. I did not start the tour with a dog. We were in San Jose, California. We're doing the tour. I think it's my second or third city for me. They have this National event called Clear the Shelters weekend, which is a weekend where they will severely reduce or just completely slash the adoption fees for their pets on that weekend. Since all of my friends in the cast really wanted to go and of course being an animal lover, I absolutely wanted to go.. I went and I fell in love with this teeny little, not even five pound dog. And I ended up scooping her up that weekend and I named her Poppy, for multiple reasons. She is a California girl and poppies are their state flower and we do have poppies in Wicked. So, yeah, she's my little poppy seed and she travels around the country with me and she's the best travel companion. And I think I take her all over with me. She goes on my hikes with me sometimes and will sit in her bag and go to the museum. She's quite the little adventurer as well. She sometimes adjusts to the tour life better than I do. You know, it's funny. Whenever we get to a new city, we'll get into our Airbnb or hotel, and she's the first to stroll in and make a little circle and plop down on the bed. She's certainly not shy in that regard.
How long do you think you will continue to stay with the tour?
And so because I'm on a principal contract, we start out with nine month contracts. So my contract currently goes through March that if we are so lucky, we could be asked to extend as it gets closer to time.
Is there somebody's career in theater that you would like to emulate?
I have always been a huge fan of Laura Benanti. I think she's really versatile.. I think to have a career like Laura Benanti or Kelli O'Hara for example. They are so versatile. Also they obviously have stunning voices. They're both beautiful women also and most importantly to me, amazing storytellers. You know, they're phenomenal actresses and I just think that's probably the most important thing is being able to capture people within the story. I think that they're just my absolute iconic role models. They have successful professional and personal lives. I would love to have a family and everything . It would be the best of both worlds and that would be awesome.
Amanda Fallon Smith and the rest of Wicked cast will be in Little Rock January 1st-19th. For tickets contact in person at Celebrity Attractions, via phone at 866.870.2717 or locally at 501.244.8800 or online at wickedthemusical.com