Actress and singer Jane Brockman hasn’t lived in Wisconsin since she was 9 years old. But considering that she was born in Neenah, her father helped found UW-Parkside, and she came back every year to celebrate Christmas, her ties to the Badger state run deep.
And then there’s the kringle obsession.
"We lived in Wauwatosa and Brown Deer and all around until I was 9 and then we moved to Pennsylvania," she said during a phone interview. "The last city we lived in was Racine and of course – kringle in Racine. The Danish kringle has become famous now amongst my friends because I give them kringle from Bendtsen’s Bakery in Racine. I’ve enlightened the world on what kringle is – what kringle should be."
So do her friends in other parts of the country really not know what kringle is?
"No, they don’t really have it – they have all kinds of other danishes and stuff," she said. "But it’s not the same."
Brockman still has plenty of family in Wisconsin and on previous touring productions has performed in Madison, but her performance this week with the national tour of "Wicked" at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts will mark the first time she sets foot on a Milwaukee stage.
"I’m very much looking forward to (Milwaukee), as is the rest of the cast," she said. "I have to tell you, everybody is looking forward to Wisconsin. Word gets back when you get to a good city – when you’re on the road for four years – I’ve only been on for a year – but when you’ve been on the road for a long time you look forward to cities that you like and that’s exactly what Milwaukee and Madison are for this company."
Wisconsin certainly loves "Wicked." When the tour stopped at the Marcus Center in 2010, it set box office records. The musical is coming up on its tenth anniversary, and Brockman said she is not surprised that audiences continue to respond to its message and music even after a decade.
"I really honestly believe that there’s something for everybody in this show," she said. "Of course, young girls enjoy the show because they relate to the story of the friendship of the two girls. But then you see their fathers who bring them and they LOVE the show and the mothers love the show and then the grandparents come – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t find something to like in the show, and I think that’s really part of it – there’s a universal story there of friendship and acceptance and I think that touches everybody."
Brockman has been appearing in the touring production’s ensemble since last year and also understudies for the role of Madame Morrible, which she says is fast climbing the charts as her favorite role yet.
"She is the head of Shiz Unviersity and she’s got her own agenda in the show and she’s a lot of fun to play. A lot of fun," she said. "It’s one of my favorite (roles). The other favorite would be – I got to play Margaret in "The Light in the Piazza" (national tour). It’s an incredibly beautiful show. The role was quite demanding as far as – all across the board, singing and acting, but that would be another one. Completely different from Madame Morrible."
The LA Times called Brockman’s performance of Margaret "superb, heartwarming, beautifully sung and warranted a standing O." She has also appeared widely in regional theater, other touring productions, in film and television on "Law & Order: SVU" and "All My Children" and on Broadway in "The Christmas Carol."
Life on the road has its difficulties: namely, being away from her husband and 25-year-old son, who is also a musician. But being part of a nationally touring production like "Wicked" affords her the opportunity to discover North America in a truly unique way.
"I really enjoy visiting all the different areas of the United States, and Canada, too. It’s a great country that we have here and it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit and get to know the people of all these different areas. That’s probably my favorite part," she said. "Visiting different towns and seeing what every city, every town has to offer, and every town has something kind of neat to see."
And we’re sure that when "Wicked" wraps up, she’ll bring some kringle home to her family.
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.