"Wicked" is back in central Arkansas and is still as magical as ever. Having recently celebrated its 16th year on Broadway, this mega-popular musical has won more than 100 international awards including a Grammy Award and three Tony Awards. Now showing at the Robinson Center through Jan. 19, "Wicked" is a can't-miss attraction packed with all your musical favorites including "Defying Gravity," "Popular" and "The Wizard and I."
The story is based in Oz, but long before Dorothy arrives. There is a young woman born with emerald-green skin who is smart, fiery, misunderstood and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendship until the world decides to call one "good," and the other one "wicked."
We chatted with actress Allison Bailey who plays the famous Glinda the Good Witch. She shares the story of how she came to join the "Wicked" cast, what she thinks audiences will most resonate with in the show and what it's like to wear the amazing bubble dress.
How long have you been touring with “Wicked”?
Allison Bailey: I have been on the road for over four years. I understudied for three years and eight months, and then I was only gone for three weeks over the summer and then I took over as the lead. So I’ve been on the road for over four years!
Tell me a little bit about you. How did you get into the business?
AB: I’m from Pensacola, Florida. I went to college in Boston, so I went to the Boston Conservatory of musical theater. I grew up doing community theater and everything, but when I moved to Boston, that’s when I really started pursuing a career in that. So I went to Boston for four years and got my BFA in musical theater, then I moved to New York City and lived there for about a year. Then I booked the show and then I’ve been on the road ever since.
What were some of your favorite roles to play over the years? I know “Wicked” has been what you’ve done post-college but what about during?
AB: I did do shows in college. I was Ophelia in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and I was Shelby in “Steel Magnolias.” So those are probably some of my favorites. But obviously Glinda will always been near and dear to my heart.
Absolutely. And especially since you’ve gotten to be her for so long.
AB: Totally! I feel like she’s a part of me now.
What do you love the most about being on stage?
AB: Honestly, there’s so much to love. I love live theater. I love that we’re able to perform in front of an audience and that the interaction with the audience changes every night. I love my castmates. I think some of the joy of being able to do the show for so long is the people that you work with, and I feel really blessed that we have such a great company. And I will always love wearing the bubble dress.
Had you seen the production before working in the show?
AB: Totally! I saw the show when I was 12 at the Gershwin Theatre in New York. “Wicked” has been around for almost half my life, but the minute that I saw Jennifer Laura Thompson come from the bubble, I thought that’s what I wanted to do for a career. So my little eighth grade self had a big dream, but I knew that’s what I wanted to pursue. So yes, I’d probably seen it three or four times before I actually booked the show. I’m a big fan!
What do you think audiences will be most moved by when they go to see “Wicked”?
AB: I think what people are so moved by and what we continue to hear over and over again from different fans and patrons that come to see the show is that they identify with the characters. They identify as an Elphaba or a Glinda, and I think that’s probably what will most resonate. There are kids in middle school who come and think, “Oh, I’ve been left out before.” But then also into adulthood, people resonate with that too because they’ve felt isolated at some point in their life. But there’s also so much magic! There’s so much magic with bubbles and flying and witches — the spectacle of the show brings audiences in.
What scene or moment do you look forward to every night?
AB: Without giving too much away, there is a moment where Elphie and Glinda become friends and I grab her hand and that’s the most special moment in the show for me. It’s a scene where there’s a lot of dancing, and to be honest with you, no one says anything, but you’re able to see the two's friendship begin to form. And I also love “Popular.” “Popular” will always be a big favorite for me. It’s fun! It’s just so much fun.
What is it like playing the famous Glinda?
AB: Honestly, it’s the epitome of a dream. It’s so much fun. I think the moment that I come in clear in the curtain through the bubble every single night, there’s so much magic there because I remember the little girl that I was seeing the show for the first time, and that to me is such a blessing. It’s so fun. It’s been a complete dream.
I think that’s so neat that you saw it when you were so young and thought “that’s what I want to do” and here you are.
AB: It’s just something really special to share. I saw the show with my mom and some friends when I was in eighth grade, and now my mom comes to see the show all the time and I know it’s a huge full-circle moment for her.