BWW Interviews: Emily Behny of WICKED National Tour
Returning to the Durham Performing Arts Center from January 7th-25th is the national touring production of Broadway's smash hit musical Wicked featuring Emily Behny in the role of Nessarose, a role originated on Broadway by Michelle Frederer.
A 2010 graduate of Ball State University, Emily's previous credits include Belle in the national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Helen Hayes nomination); Something's Afoot at the Goodspeed Opera House.
JK: How exciting does it feel for you to be on the road with one of those rare shows where the title alone is enough to sell it?
EB: It's extremely special! This show is called 'Broadway's Biggest Blockbuster', and you can see why...every house is sold out every night, and audiences just go crazy for this story! So it's quite a rush to go out on stage and feel that energy from the audience and know that this story is just as impactful today as it was when it opened on Broadway 11 years ago.
JK: It's an amazing story about how when Wicked first opened, the critics weren't all that enthusiastic about it, it also didn't end up winning the Tony for Best Musical, but neither of those factors stopped it from becoming a worldwide phenomenon! What do you think is it that audiences were catching onto that the critics weren't?
EB: I think it's a really powerful story about a female friendship. There aren't many musicals today that follow a female friendship like this one, and I also think that people can relate to these two women and the troubles that they've had. I also think the popularity of The Wizard of Oz and discovering this story before Dorothy dropped in makes Wicked that much more lovable!
JK: Your point about the friendship between two women could be another reason why Frozen is so popular!
EB: Yeah, absolutely! I think that's another example of a story about two very dominant personalities that audiences just fall in love with. The score of Wicked, the Tony Award-Winning costumes, and the spectacle is just what draws audiences in!
JK: I've seen interviews with a lot of past cast members from Jersey Boys, and they've always claimed that it's the music that brings audiences in, but it's the story that keeps them coming back. I find that connected with Wicked, where it's The Wizard of Oz stuff that brings them in, but it's the story that keeps them coming back.
JK: Over the eleven years of its existence, what was your first exposure to Wicked?
EB: I actually saw Wicked on my 18th birthday. I went to New York City for a choir trip, where we sang at St. Patrick's Cathedral and one of the special events we went to was seeing Wicked on Broadway. So that was my first Broadway show, my first time in New York City, and I not only fell in love with New York, but also Broadway, and seeing Wicked was one of the moments in my life where I said "This is what I wanna do!".
JK: So how did the opportunity for you to be apart of the show come about?
EB: I have an agent, and I went in for an agent appointment for Nessarose. I kind of auditioned three different times probably throughout a year-and-a-half or two years, and I guess third time was the charm. I went in for the same agent appointment and I sang and read for Nessarose and then was offered the role the next day without a callback.
JK: In the past, there has been a whole lot of different cast members from the touring companies of Wicked who'd gone on to get promoted to the Broadway production, if that opportunity comes to you, would you take it?
EB: Absolutely! I hope to be apart of this production again, whether it's as Nessarose or even another role.
JK: Plus, you could probably make your Broadway debut...
EB: I would appreciate that!
JK: I do want to get on the subject of your director Joe Mantello, who happens to be an alumni of North Carolina School of the Arts. He's always working; he was recently Emmy-Nominated for his supporting role in HBO's adaptation of The Normal Heart; he just opened The Last Ship on Broadway; and he's currently prepping Airline Highway for the spring, what is he like to work with?
EB: I have actually only met him once, but he's incredible! Given the time that I've spent with Joe in the note session, I was just amazed at his intelligence, he is so well spoken! He obviously knows Wicked inside and out, but he also began as an actor. I think he understands the actor's process, and knows what he wants to see on stage. He's just brilliant! Just listening to him and watching him talk was such a lesson in of itself.
JK: That must be a huge benefit of having an experienced actor as your director?
EB: Yeah, exactly.
JK: What are you enjoying most about traveling around the country doing this show so far?
EB: Well, I love the traveling part. I started to get ancy for the next move after about two-and-a-half weeks. So I enjoy picking up and moving onto a new city, exploring it, seeing museums, historical landmarks, and also connecting with friends along the way that we'd normally never really see, but that makes the tour really special.
JK: As a performer, how are you able to keep up with performing eight times a week?
EB: Well, it takes a lot of hard work and discipline, I'll tell you that. I've now been with the show for nearly a year-and-a-half, I am tired! I think you reach a point where you're professionally tired, but you have to take care of yourself. Our bodies and our voice is our instruments, and they are our tools for our careers. If you don't take care of your voice and body, then you have no career. That means getting up earlier, going to the gym four-to-five times a week, not going out late at night, just stay healthy, eating healthy, it takes a lot of discipline, but it's worth it because this job is difficult, but it's also so rewarding. So you'd wanna make sure you give the best performance you can within the week!
JK: Do you have any dream roles you'd love to pursue in the future?
EB: Oh, sure! A dream for me is to originate a role on Broadway in a new musical. I was just apart of another production called Circus in Winter, a new musical in which I originated the role in its first ever production. I hope that show has a future, but even if it doesn't, just to be apart of originating it is just really exciting! Like you said, I'd love to play Nessarose on Broadway someday, I'd also love to do straight theatre, and then turn to TV/Film as well.
JK: Is there any advice you would like to give any aspiring young performers out there?
EB: Yes, I think if you're interested in performing, develop other interests as well. Learn, read, see as much theatre as you possibly can and have knowledge in other areas to make you a more well-rounded individual and a more well-rounded actor as well and try everything from acting, singing, dancing just to see what you're truly passionate about.
JK: Emily, I thank you very much for devoting your time to this interview, and I wish you the best of luck with Wicked!
EB: Thank you, take care!