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New Glinda to float onto the Capitol Theatre stage

Published July 30, 2014 9:42 am

Stage • Two actors step into familiar "Wicked" roles, while Utah cast members enjoy performing in their hometown theater.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After 970 performances as "Wicked's" Glinda, Gina Beck will be departing in a bubble for her last time from the Capitol Theatre stage.

Chandra Lee Schwartz, a veteran of the touring and Broadway companies, will be reclaiming the character's wand beginning July 29.

Joining the cast as Boq is Etai BenShlomo, who previously played the role on Broadway.

"Roles like this don't come along very often," says Schwartz while walking to rehearsal at the downtown Salt Lake City theater. "To get to come back to a role with a new perspective, it's kind of a gift."

The actor hopes to bring new vulnerability, learned through the everyday challenges in her life, to the character. She appreciates how the show's director, Joe Mantello, encourages actors to bring their own authenticity to the now-iconic roles.

For example, she says it would be easy to get carried away in delivering "Popular," the peppy song that is one of her character's trademarks. The actor says she reminds herself what the scene is about — her character's excitement about helping Elphaba (played by Emma Hunton) realize she's beautiful. "If all of the business doesn't serve giving Elphaba a makeover, then you can get lost," Schwartz says. "The funny happens. It's a funny show. You don't need to do much."

Schwartz, who will turn 33 during the Salt Lake City run, grew up north of San Diego and attended New York City's American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She toured as Glinda in 2009-11 and played the role on Broadway from 2011-12.

Also part of the touring cast are two Utah actors, Nikki Bohne, nearly 27, of Highland, and Shayla Osborn Beck, 27, of St. George, who were roommates while studying in the musical theater program at Brigham Young University.

Both actors found agents after performing in BYU's senior showcase show in New York City. "We actually used to sing 'For Good' in one of our classes," Beck says. "It was both of our dreams to be in 'Wicked.' It's crazy to be working together."

Their backstage stories sound like the material for a musical about show business.

Bohne, who previously played the lead in the national tour of "Legally Blonde" and in the tour and Broadway casts of "Bring It On," is an understudy for Glinda and has had the chance to perform the lead role about 15 times since she joined the tour in December. In addition, she performs in the ensemble every other night.

Her best experience playing Glinda was at the Capitol Theatre last Friday. "I came down in the bubble, and the entire audience gave me entrance applause," Bohne says. "I was speechless, but of course, I couldn't be speechless, I had to keep going."

Bohne's father had flown out to attend some of his daughter's tour performances, but health challenges kept her mother at home. Bohne says her mother, Lisa, had seen "Wicked" with her grandmother on Broadway a decade ago. Lisa Bohne was so impressed by the show she made a return trip with her then-16-year-old daughter. Watching Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel perform changed the teenager's life. "When I saw the show, I knew this was something I had to do," Bohne says. "I had to do this on Broadway."

When an illness kept lead Gina Beck from performing on July 18, Bohne was thrilled to perform at her hometown theater." Almost exactly a decade later, my mom was able to come see me in my dream role," she says. "That night was about my mother."

Shayla Beck has performed on the tour for 1 ½ years, is an understudy for the role of Elphaba and performs in the ensemble nightly. During the show, she undergoes five costumes and wig changes. "Some of the most tiring parts of the show are just getting in and out of your costumes," she says. "I get to be a blonde and a redhead — it's a party."

Beck has invented a backstory for her ensemble character, whom she has named Sandy Shores. Sandy was raised in a sheltered, rich family, Beck says, which is why she faints when she first sees Elphaba, a green girl, at Shiz University.

The actor works to keeps her performances fresh by changing something up every single night. "I want to have that same excitement that I did that very first night in San Francisco," she says. "You can't go wrong with 'Wicked.' I sing it eight shows a week, and sometimes I come home at night and I still sing it in my head. It's addicting. It stays in your heart, as cheesy as that sounds."

Beck will finish out touring days with the Salt Lake City run. She met her husband, Mark Douglas Beck, in New York City as she was attending callbacks for the "Wicked" tour. "We dated on 'Wicked,' " she says. "I got married on 'Wicked.' He's been touring with me, working remotely, for the last year. We don't know anything as a couple other than 'Wicked.'"

Now the couple are looking forward to settling in Utah and living together in a place a bit more welcoming than a hotel room. "We're pretty excited to have a sock drawer, and a little home, and to be off the road," Beck says.

ellenf@sltrib.com

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The popularity of the 'Wicked' tour

The third stopover of the national tour of "Wicked" continues.

Dates • Through Aug. 24; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; additional Thursday matinee at 2 p.m. Aug. 14.

Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $55-$175 (plus $8-$9 in fees); 801-355-2787 or artix.org

Tip • Best ticket availability is on Sundays and the matinee performance Aug. 14.

Also • A limited number of orchestra seats will be available in a day-of drawing. You can sign up at the Capitol Theatre box office 2 ½ hours before showtime for the chance to win two tickets. Names will be drawn 30 minutes later. Tickets are available for $25 each, cash only; valid photo ID required.