Broadway’s biggest blockbuster is back at Michigan State University's Wharton Center for Performing Arts for a three-week engagement, November 9 - 27. My daughter and I attended the show last night. The elaborate costumes, props and musical numbers gave us memories to last a lifetime. Today, I sat down with Kristen Martin, who plays Nessarose in the production. She is an extremely talented Michigan native you will want to keep your eye on.
CINDY KANGAS: This is the 12th anniversary of Wicked. What gives this show such longevity?
KRISTEN MARTIN: I think it always relevant. I don’t know when it wouldn’t be. I think people come and they just relate to it, if they realize it or not. It speaks to all ages.
KANGAS: Tell me your take on the family-sister storyline?
MARTIN: It’s another thing everyone can relate to. It’s sisterhood and acceptance. Something I love about this show is that it’s carried by two strong female characters. I love the feminine voice
KANGAS: What were the challenges of bringing this script to life?
MARTIN: Honestly, not much. It’s a great script! As long as you believe it and make it true to yourself, it’s all there in the script for you.
KANGAS: What skills have you found necessary to be part of a Broadway cast?
MARTIN: It takes a lot of hard work… classes, classes, classes. Performers should take as many classes as they can in as many areas possible: acting, singing and dancing. Performers that consider themselves singer-actors are always kicking themselves for not taking more dance. You will always end up in a dance call. Be as well rounded as you can be. It will pay off later.
KANGAS: How do you stay in shape and keep yourself healthy on tour?
KM: It’s a challenge. You have to be in tune with your body’s needs. The theater is a cesspool of sickness. People use EmergenC, Throat Coat and other remedies.
KANGAS: Which talents have you enjoyed working with in this production?
MARTIN: This cast, in particular, is a beautiful company. There’s positive energy all around. Everyone is so beautifully talented at what they do. What they bring to the show is an inspiration.
KANGAS: Who in the show is most like their character?
MARTIN: Glenda! Our Glenda is the most humble, modest person. She resonates kindness and spreads that around the theater.
KANGAS: What makes a good scene partner?
MARTIN: Someone that is willing to be present with you every day, eight days a week saying the same lines, but making it new each time.
KANGAS: Do you have any preshow rituals?
MARTIN: If something is happening in the world or with a cast member we “bubble up”. We all get together and someone will speak while we put our hands on each other. Pre show, I have a little group that waits stage right. We always put our arms around each other.
KANGAS: Tell me about the costumes and set design?
MARTIN: The prop of mine that stands out most is my wheelchair. At first, it was the bane of my existence. I wanted it to become my legs and have them emote through the chair. I feel so comfortable in it now. I feel like I understand this world.
KANGAS: How long did it take you to get used to using your wheelchair?
MARTIN: It was completely overwhelming. I have three chairs: the magic one that does tricks in the beginning, my main wheelchair and a second act wheelchair. They are all very different in the way they move and react to how I move them. I sometimes say I have a ghost in my wheelchair, because I’ll put it somewhere and it just starts moving. It took getting used to, but now it feels like home.
KANGAS: What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?
MARTIN: A lot of people really love how the Wizard of Oz references are woven throughout. It makes them see and remember the movie and think about it in a different way. It always sparks conversation.
KANGAS: Tell me about growing up in Michigan.
MARTIN: I grew up taking dance a Bohaty’s school of Dance in Owosso, which is now Kim’s Dance Dynamics. My mom was the main ballet teacher there, so I grew up learning from her. That jump-started my love for the performing arts. Then, I decide to be an actor, so I went to Interlochen as a theater major and minored in voice and dance.
KANGAS: Do you think Michigan has a lot of performing arts opportunities for kids?
MARTIN: One of the best schools and programs for musical theater is at the University of Michigan. Those kids are taking over Broadway and the musical world. They are so successful and it’s amazing to see. I’m very proud.
KANGAS: What do you miss about Michigan?
KM: I miss a lot of things. I really miss the pace. In the city you can feel overwhelmed. It’s nice to come home and slow down a bit. Also, everyone is friendly. In the city, we sometimes forget to acknowledge the people around us. You can feel sort of invisible there. It’s nice to come home and feel more connected.
KANGAS: Do you have friends and family coming to watch?
MARTIN: Yes! So many people have been supportive. I have people coming to every show. It’s so exciting! I’m living with my mom here, so I’m home and that’s been wonderful.
KANGAS: What do you do when you’re not doing theater?
MARTIN: I’ve gotten into writing and creating my own material. I’m getting into using social media platforms. I like movies and I’m active. I love traveling whenever I can, so that why I love being in a traveling tour.
KANGAS: What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
MARTIN: Definitely the in-betweens. In-between jobs we say, “You’re not working until you don’t have a job.” The true work comes in-between. It’s keeping yourself in check mentally and emotionally. There are so many no’s in this industry. You are so vulnerable and so “in yourself”, yet you’re told no repeatedly.
KANGAS: Where do you see yourself in the future?
MARTIN: I try to keep dreaming ahead. I feel fortunate for the career I have had over the past ten years. I’d love to break into tv/film a bit more, but I still always love to do theater. It’s home.
KANGAS: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?
MARTIN: Take care of yourself. You get nos. Let that challenge you. You can overcome it and be a stronger performer.
KANGAS: The show takes place now through 11/27. How can we buy tickets and find out more?