Wicked Broadway

Alyssa Fox & McKenzie Kurtz Reflect on Time in Wicked Ahead of Final Show

Alyssa Fox settles into her dressing room and McKenzie Kurtz is cozy at home in full glam as they hop on a video call hours before showtime.

“Whatcha doing there, girl?” Kurtz, who plays Glinda, asks, noting she’d done her makeup for a  meeting prior to this interview.

“I had physical therapy and then I had to pick up prescriptions,” says Fox. The actress, who is healing from an injury, isn’t performing that night. Doctor’s orders. “So here I am. I had to have a quiet place. Here it is: my dressing room.”

Typically the two stars don’t see each other until right before the show starts.

“McKenzie usually says hi to me right before she goes on stage because I’m still usually getting green paint put on me while she’s starting the show,” Fox, who plays Elphaba and has been part of the Wicked family on and off for 14 years, tells Broadway Direct of their preshow routine.

The pair are leaving the show on March 3 after — goodness knows — an exhilarating year that led up to Wicked’s 20th anniversary last October 30. Mary Kate Morrissey takes over as Elphaba and Alexandra Socha will play Glinda after the pair’s final bow.

The anniversary performance was nothing short of one of the most memorable days of their careers, with original stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel in the audience. “We could feel the energy of the whole theatre,” Fox says.

The cast wasn’t directly told Chenoweth and Menzel would be there for the event. But Fox says they had a feeling. “It was kind of, ‘Oh, that would be crazy if they weren’t there, right?’”

Naturally, both leading ladies had the jitters before the curtain went up. Fox tried to mentally prepare as if it was a regular performance and had her vocal coach come to the theatre to help warm up her voice. But, she recalls, “there was one moment of panic where I was afraid: ‘Is this going to go the way I want it to go? I hope my voice doesn’t crack. I hope my allergies aren’t bad today.’ There was a lot of fear. Once I got out there, the fear went away and the excitement and power took over.” For Kurtz, even her dresser sensed some nerves, commenting on how quiet she was before the show started.

During the show, both women noticed when Menzel and Chenoweth started standing ovations after “Popular” and “Defying Gravity.” “The wall of sound was so huge that there were times on stage when I could not hear myself at all. I was like, ‘I hope I’m singing the right in the right key,’” Fox recounts.

It wasn’t until intermission when they both broke down in tears, their emotions getting the best of them.

“Alyssa came back after ‘Defying Gravity.’ We were in the hallway between our dressing rooms and we just held each other and cried,” Kurtz says of the moment. “With all of the excitement and the joy, it was a stressful time. We wanted it to be amazing for the fans. We wanted it to be amazing for us. It was like a relief and like a release.”

“I was weeping,” adds Fox. “It was this huge catharsis because it was such a build-up. It ended up being the most incredible night. It was exactly what I dreamed.”

Afterward, it got even better, when they had a few moments offstage with Menzel and Chenoweth. “Idina hugged me and was like, ‘What you did tonight was really incredible. You did so many things that I couldn’t have done.’” And Kurtz’s jaw dropped when Chenoweth told her, “You’re perfect. You’re stunning.”

McKenzie Kurtz and Alyssa Fox in <i>Wicked</i>. Photo by Joan Marcus.
McKenzie Kurtz and Alyssa Fox in Wicked. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This time around, as Fox and Kurtz get ready to pack up their dressing rooms, they are grateful for the opportunity to get to know each other. The last time they performed on Broadway together were the two days before Broadway’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Fox played Elsa and Kurtz played Anna in Frozen.

“We didn’t even know it was the last show of Frozen on Broadway ever,” Kurtz says. “When we found out that we were going to be doing this together, it was such an exciting thing, to pick up where we left off.”

Over the year, their relationship became stronger, doing eight shows a week together. Kurtz says what surprised her the most about her year in Wicked is that she is still discovering new things about her character every performance.

“The other night I said a line in the train station scene, when Fiyero brings Elphaba flowers and then jets off. Glinda is so upset and Elphaba was trying to comfort her, saying, ‘Everybody loves you.’ Glinda says, ‘I don’t care. I just want him. I don’t even think he’s perfect anymore and I still want him.’ I took it as Glinda is having this moment of,Oh my god, I actually don’t care. I really just desperately want him.’ There are different things all the time, and with me, for the comedy of trying new things in ‘Popular,’ doing the splits one night,” Kurtz says.

“I love seeing the way she lights up when the audience is responding to her comedy,” chimes in Fox.

Their reactions to the Wicked movie trailer, starring Cyntha Erivo as Elphaba and Ariana Grande as Glinda, that premiered on Super Bowl Sunday was just as energetic. “It got me hyped,” responds Kurtz. “Some people had different views on it. It’s not the same medium. It’s a movie. I want it to be different. I want them to be able to do the things that we can’t do on the stage.”

“It’s a spectacle,” adds Fox. “There are strands of it that are very Wicked in the Wicked stage musical that we know and love. But there are so many things that feel so expanded.”

For example, Erivo’s belt at the end of the trailer. “The ‘Defying Gravity’ riff — it’s so different from what we do here,” Fox explains. “We are a little more restricted musically when it comes to those kinds of things. Because the show has gone on for 20 years, there are some things that work and some things that don’t work. There are certain things they like to keep from going off the rails. They want to keep the riffing to a minimum because it can just turn into a riff-fest. For this movie, I love that they’re letting Cynthia Erivo do what she does.”

After they take their final bows, Kurtz is stepping into a new Broadway show. She’ll be originating the role of Cassandra in The Heart of Rock and Roll, a Huey Lewis jukebox rom-com musical set in the 1980s. Performances begin March 29 at the James Earl Jones Theatre. The story, according to Kurtz, centers around Bobby (Corey Cott) who dreams of being in a rock band but gives it up to work for a cardboard-box company.

“My character is this little introverted, awkward, nerdy numbers kind of gal, but very sweet. Bobby and Cassandra may be catching some feelings for one another. I don’t want to give too much away,” she teases about a possible workplace romance that for obvious reasons wouldn’t be acceptable today. “There are multiple jokes about it in the script as well, which I love.”

Fox is joining the Disney Princess: Concert Tour, and sleeping on a tour bus for a month and half.

“I am excited to wear pink, sparkling things. I’m excited about not having to scowl for three hours,” she says with a smile.

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