The Houston Symphony’s 12-13 POPS season is off to a great start this fall! After a wonderful season opener with the Midtown Men, we’re excited to welcome our next special guests Alli Mauzey and Nicole Parker to perform some Broadway favorites in our October POPS concert, Wicked Divas. I recently had the chance to interview the show’s Broadway stars, along with their manager and the show’s co-creator John Such, and got some fascinating insights on the divas’ long-time friendship and the thrilling story of how the show came to be!
• Georgia McBride: Alli and Nicole, I understand the two of you are great friends- how does your friendship influence this performance?
Alli Mauzey: The history Nicole and I have allows us to bring that depth to Wicked Divas. Not only the comfortability in playing with each other on stage, but all the wonderful stories and experiences we have shared become part of the show.
Nicole Parker: We have a shorthand with each other so it’s fun to be able to tell where she might be going with a story or an instinct and it leads to what I think is a sort of a great spontaneity on stage. I think we support each other very well, and I certainly know that if I ever drop the ball she’s got my back, and vice versa. We are just very comfortable with each other which makes it easy to perform regardless of how many factors might change around you. I like to think that our comfortability puts the audiences at ease and they know right off the bat they are in for a good time. Plus we make each other laugh a lot which I enjoy.
AM: Different cast! I don’t believe I’ve gotten to do Wicked with most of this group of people. I’m really looking forward to that!
• GM: Nicole, I have heard about your work on Mad TV and your impressions; how does the preparation for your comedy work compare to the preparation for your live musical theatre work?
NP: I think when preparing for sketch comedy you have to have adaptability because things can change on a dime, whether it’s an audience’s reaction or a fellow performer throwing you a curve ball in the moment, and the same skills apply to musical theater, because live singing can be very unpredictable; your voice may not always cooperate due to allergies or climate, etc., and each concert requires adaptability from how each symphony likes to work, the sound design in the concert hall, and so on. So it’s a good skill set all around!
• GM: Alli and Nicole, what are your favorite aspects of the Wicked Divas show?
AM: Instead of singing in one style as you would in a book musical, we sing in all styles: pop, classical, Broadway, etc. It’s a thrill to sing it all in one night! Of course being accompanied by your fantastic symphony will be the highlight of the evening!
NP: I really love the music I sing and my duets with Alli, and the arrangements. Also, I love to travel, and this is a unique way to really get a feel for each city, especially from a cultural perspective. And it is pretty fabulous singing “Defying Gravity” with a full orchestra, while not having to be green and strapped in 20 feet up! I get to wear a pretty dress and move however I please, which is not the way it works when you are actually playing Elphaba!
• GM: Alli and Nicole, were you ever in the Wicked cast at the same time? If so, what are some of your favorite behind the scenes memories? Does the duet “For Good” have a special meaning for you, especially since you are such close friends?
AM: Nicole and I met while doing Wicked on Broadway actually. But what was interesting is that as we got to know each other we found out that we grew up about 15-20 minutes from each other and were familiar with the same theatre programs and people back home in Southern California. I had even met Nicole’s Mom, Dee Parker, before I had met Nicole while I was in high school but didn’t know it. Dee used to work with the ear, nose and throat doctor I would go to. I would go in for doctor’s visits, and this woman kept talking about how talented her daughter was and how she would be on Broadway someday. Cut to years later, I met Nicole on Broadway, we figured out that I had met her Mom when I was in high school, and I can vouch that her mother was right about how talented her daughter is!!!
NP: We have done Wicked together twice, once on Broadway, and again just this past summer on the First National Tour. Oh there have been many backstage laughs. I suppose some of the best memories are making each other laugh during “Popular.” Alli is just so amazing in that scene and was constantly keeping me on my toes by changing things up. Things got loopy especially at the end of a five show weekend! “For Good” is very special to sing with Alli, of course. She stood at my wedding! Both times we have sung it in our last performances of Wicked together, it’s been a little inaudible, with all the tears! But we’ll keep it together for you, Houston!
• GM: John, I hear the development of Wicked Divas is an interesting story. How did this show come to be?
John Such: I received a call from the executive director of the Cincinnati Pops on a Thursday at about 4:00, telling me that Ms. Chenoweth, who was supposed to perform with them that weekend, was ill and they had no idea what to do. The rehearsal was the next day (Friday morning). They wondered if we could substitute another Glinda in her place- but I told them that Kristin was a star at this point and that substituting her with another would only leave room for direct comparisons. But I thought the idea of keeping the Wicked theme and bringing two ladies who had performed Glinda and Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway and building a program around them would be interesting. She agreed and I called Julia Murney and Megan Hilty (who is now one of the stars of SMASH) and both were available and ready for the challenge. We all looked at songs I had in my library and set forth building a program with selections that they knew. Once we decided on the vocal selections, Steve Reineke then filled in with the orchestral selections and constructed the order. I pulled the music, booked the flights, emailed the ladies the vocal parts and the performers were in Cincinnati the next morning for rehearsal. Not one person turned back their tickets and the review said, “When dazzling Broadway diva Kristin Chenoweth became ill and canceled her appearance with the Cincinnati Pops on Wednesday, the orchestra had barely two days to find a replacement. They found two, Megan Hilty and Julia Murney – two big talents with big voices to match. That’s not much time to salvage a show. But on Friday, combined with those gorgeous show tunes played by Steven Reineke and the Cincinnati Pops, just about everything was “coming up roses.” The Cincinnati Pops thought of the name of the show and, as a “thank you,” allowed me to use it.
• GM: John, how many times has it been performed around the country?
JS: A lot. I can’t even count.
• GM: Alli and Nicole, have either of you ever been to Houston before? If so, what is your favorite thing to do? If not, what are you most looking forward to about Houston?
NP: I have never been to Houston so I am very excited! I’m looking forward to a good steak and a good time!
AM: I have not been to Houston before either! I am absolutely thrilled to come and take it all in! And I am even more thrilled to get to share the stage with the Houston Symphony conducted by the amazing Steven Reineke!
On a side note, Nicole and I are huge fans of the store Anthropologie, and I read recently they now have wedding stores in two cities in the United States- one being in Houston! I’m getting married in May so Nicole and I hope to take some time to look at wedding dresses while we’re in town. So excited! I was also a bridesmaid in her wedding a year ago so it’s so special to be involved in such momentous times each other’s lives!
For more information about the concerts and to purchase tickets, CLICK HERE!