In Arts & Entertainment

Actress Carrie St. Louis plays Glinda the Good witch in "Wicked," opening Wednesday night in Milwaukee. (PHOTO: Joan Marcus)

"Wicked" actress aims to make "Popular" role of Glinda her own

It's never easy to step into the shoes of an iconic role.

While Carrie St. Louis may not have to literally step into the pop culture's most famous set of shoes, Dorothy's ruby red slippers (though she did play the girl from Kansas back in high school), the actress does have to take on the role of Glinda the Good Witch, one made famous by beloved stage stars like Kristin Chenoweth and Megan Hilty, in the touring rendition of "Wicked" coming to Milwaukee Wednesday, Nov. 4 through Sunday, Nov. 15.

Before she hits the stage, OnMilwaukee chatted with St. Louis about making the now iconic stage role her own, how that's not even the hardest part of the role and the surprise pick for her own favorite musical.

OnMilwaukee: When were you introduced to both "The Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked"? Had you seen the show before joining the cast?

Carrie St. Louis: I mean, I obviously grew up loving the movie because, I mean, who doesn't. Then for "Wicked," I saw it when I was about 15 or 16 in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre. I remember I saw Megan Hilty, and I was hooked. I was in the far back of the balcony, and I remember thinking, "I have to play that role," then going home and practicing all the time my rendition of "Popular."

It was kind of another full circle moment when I first started the tour, before my shoes came in, I was wearing Megan Hilty's "Popular" shoes. So it felt sort of crazy to be right in the exact same spot I envisioned myself ten years ago. I definitely always wanted to do "Wicked," and I always just knew Glinda was a perfect part for me, because that is so much who I am. It's kind of always been a dream.

OnMilwaukee: What is it about "Wicked" that's helped it become such a phenomenon?

St. Louis: I was thinking about this the other day on stage during "For Good," but it's just so rare to find a story about the friendship of two women, and about friendship in general. That is the main theme of the show, and it questions all of the stereotypes about what's good and what's bad. It changes your perspective throughout the show on a well-known ad beloved story, taking it and spinning it on its head and presenting it to you in a new light. Everyone loves it because a lot of people knew "The Wizard of Oz," so they feel like they're in on the story before it even starts, but then they're constantly challenged by it and find new things.

OnMilwaukee: Is there anything you studied – other performances, maybe – before hitting the stage and taking on the role?

St. Louis: The thing I found with "Wicked" is it's challenging because it has been on Broadway for 12 years, and there's been so many iconic Glindas. It's an honor to be in that group of people now, but I had to sort of find my own Glinda. There's certainly definitely things that I draw from from watching other performances and research, but ultimately, it's so hard to try to be anyone else's Glinda but your own. I think that's what makes it fun and keeps it fresh, that every actress that comes to the role brings an element of herself to it. And I think that's why audiences keep coming back over and over again, to see the new witches and to see the spins that the witches take and the different interpretations that come through.

OnMilwaukee: What did you bring?

St. Louis: For me, I'm from Palm Springs, and I went to prep school, so I kinda feel like I went to Shiz University. (laughs) I went to a boarding school for high school all the way across the country. So I've drawn from different life experiences to sort of find my own version of Glinda. I also studied opera in college, so that's been fun to be able to sing in that area again, but then I also did "Rock of Ages," so there's sort of rock 'n' roll things that I like to add in because that's also a part of who I am.

OnMilwaukee: Is that the hardest part of Glinda, the shadow of all of the famous witches who've come before?

St. Louis: Everyone is going to have their own personal favorite, the way they like the role or the way they interpret the role to be. But I've really kind of full speed ahead done it my way, and it seems to be working hopefully. I've definitely seen so many types of Glindas, and I love each one for what they each bring to the table.

I wouldn't say that's the hardest part. The hardest part is that, for Glinda, she's got a huge character arc throughout the show, and she goes through all of the feelings. It's quite a roller coaster for Glinda, and she has to be the comedic relief but also have a heart of gold because in the end, you have to feel for her because she just doesn't know any better. She grows up throughout the course of the show, which I think is definitely the biggest challenge of Glinda – the fine line of keeping it light and funny but also holding onto the gravity of every single thing, because everything she does, she takes very seriously.

OnMilwaukee: Is there another fairy tale or classic story you would like to see get the "Wicked"-esque prequel treatment?

St. Louis: Nobody has ever asked me that question! That's a great question. I don't know. "Into the Woods" kind of blends them all together. The movie "Hook" is interesting on its spin on Peter Pan. Maybe Little Red Riding Hood? There might be something there, maybe a darker version.

I think it's always really cool when shows are sort of dark. "Wicked" is sort of dark in reality when you think about it; there are a lot of moments that are kind of scary. For me, my favorite musical is "Sweeney Todd." I absolutely love that musical, and it's such a cool, dark musical – which is weird, I know. I'm Glinda, and I like "Sweeney Todd." (laughs) But I could see Little Red Riding Hood as a dark fairy tale.


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