"It's really fun to be blonde every night!"
"I know about popular,” glam witch Glinda assures us in Wicked’s most exuberant solo, and actress Alli Mauzey is having a ball getting dolled up and teaching Elphaba “little ways to flirt and flounce” in the smash-hit musical. A year ago, Mauzey was playing the polar opposite of Glinda as loony Lenora, who stalked the title character in Cry-Baby, a comic turn that earned her a Theatre World Award. The bi-coastal actress, who joined co-star Nicole Parker in hosting Broadway.com’s hilarious Party-Hopping With the Stars Video on Tony night, chatted about what makes Wicked special and her post-Broadway plans.
You and Nicole Parker seemed to have a great time partying for Broadway.com on Tony night.
We did! It was super fun, and a lot of people have said that they loved the video.
It’s obvious you two like each other, which must be helpful in playing Glinda and Elphaba.
It’s funny—we grew up about 20 minutes away from each other in California and didn’t even know it. I was randomly talking to Nicole yesterday about voice doctors; her mother works for one, and I’m 99% sure that her mother was the assistant of the doctor I went to in high school. The first thing we’re going to do when we leave Wicked is go to Disneyland together, because we live nearby. She has a pass, and when I get back to California I’m going to buy an annual pass and we’ll hang out there together.
How long will you be in the show?
My contract ends in mid-August. Right now, Nicole and I end on separate dates; both of us have stuff going on in L.A., so it was hard to figure out how to end on the same day. My manager has been dying to get me back out to L.A. because she wants to send me out on TV and film stuff. I love being in Wicked, but I chose not to extend my contract at this time so I can open myself up to more things. Something like The Office would be great, a show that has a script but is also a little bit improvised. We’ll see. I usually divide my time between both coasts, so I’ll just continue to do that.
What’s your take on why Wicked is still one of Broadway’s hottest shows?
The heart of it is the story of this friendship and the things [Glinda and Elphaba] go through. You get emotionally involved, which is a big part of why people go to the theater. Everybody knows someone like these characters—the popular girl and the girl nobody understands. You root for both of them. I don’t really want to generalize about the audience. We do get a lot of girls and moms, but I know plenty of men who know all the words to “Popular”!
Have you gotten to work with Wicked director Joe Mantello or composer Stephen Schwartz?
Joe saw this cast a couple of months ago and was really pleased. Usually when he comes, he’ll stick around and give notes, but he was so happy, he didn’t have much to say, which was nice. We were all asked to stay, so we must be doing something right. I actually met Stephen when I was living in L.A. and got asked to do a reading of Snapshots, a show created around a bunch of his songs, sort of like Mamma Mia! Then when I was up for Wicked, they rented a studio in L.A. and set up an audition with just him, me and the accompanist. He said, “Oh, if I had known it was you, I would have given the stamp of approval.” It was wonderful to work one-on-one with him on the material. He’s always been very kind to me.
What’s fun about playing Glinda?
A couple of things. One, I’m a brunette and it’s really fun to be blonde every night! The transformation of wearing beautiful party dresses and princess gowns—it’s like getting to be Barbie for the night. I keep saying that I want to dye my hair blonde for a week, just for fun, but I don’t want to do the maintenance, so I guess I’m living my dream by getting to play Glinda. And I absolutely love singing this score because there’s so much range. I don’t know many shows where you get to sing those high-high-high soprano notes and belt as well. The role is so big and there’s so much material, every performance is different.
Were you a Glinda type in high school?
By no means! I was never comfortable with that. I played a lot of sports in high school, and I also did choir and musicals, so I had my sports friends and my acting friends. I wasn’t the most popular girl but I wasn’t at the bottom of the totem pole, either. I was somewhere in the middle.
Is a role like Glinda more challenging than, say, Lenora, the nutty chick you played in Cry-Baby?
I wouldn’t say Lenora is closer to me than Glinda because I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m crazy [laughs]. But when you originate a role, you can tailor it to yourself and your strengths; you put a lot of yourself into it. It took a little while to find Glinda because I’m not that girl. But putting on the clothes and wig definitely helped.
Let’s revisit Cry-Baby for a minute. Were you surprised it didn’t do better?
I can’t necessarily say I’m surprised, but I’m disappointed. We worked on it for a long time—we did two readings, a workshop, we went out of town, we came back in—and we just couldn’t seem to get it on its feet. I think [Broadway’s] Marquis Theatre did us a disservice. It’s such a huge house, and for the type of quirky show that we were, a smaller theater might have been better. Remember Urinetown? The theater it was in [Henry Miller’s] wasn’t too big and wasn’t too small.
It was a funny show, and the Tony nominators [which gave Cry-Baby a Best Musical nod in 2008] obviously agreed.
That was the first time I had been part of a project from start to finish, and I have so much respect now for new shows. When I see a new show, I’m much more lenient because I know how hard it is. You don’t get to step away from it during previews and figure out what to change to put the pieces together. So yeah, it was nice to get recognized at the Tony Awards, and I’m going to say we deserved [four nominations] because we got them!
Cry-Baby’s Tony-nominated score wasn’t recorded, right?
It wasn’t. There was talk about it being recorded even after we closed, but it’s been a year, so I’m not holding my breath anymore. I would love to record my songs, at least, at some point, if I record an album or some sort of compilation CD.
Backing up a bit, why did you decide to go cross-country to college at NYU?
I did my freshman year at U.C. Irvine, but I decided that I wanted to go to a school that had a stronger musical theater program. The best thing about NYU for me was that it got me acclimated to the city. I made friends here, so when I graduated, living in New York was an option because I already had a home. I always think it’s so brave of people who just up and move here; if I had stayed at U.C. Irvine, it would have been easy to stay in California in my comfort zone. But the funny thing is that I booked two of my Broadway shows, Hairspray and Wicked, from L.A.
Do you have any role models in the theater? People whose career you admire?
I’ve always loved Judy Kuhn’s voice. And Liz Callaway. In high school, a voice teacher turned me on to one of Liz Callaway’s CDs, and I just think her voice is so fresh; it’s a really gorgeous instrument. Judy Kuhn can sing anything. That’s what I strive for—I want to be able to sing any sort of material, no matter how high, how low, or whatever style it is. A friend of mine in high school was very into musical theater, and he had tapes of old Tony Awards shows. He showed me a clip of Judy Kuhn and Dick Latessa in Rags and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to learn that song.”
Another Stephen Schwartz show! Was Dick Latessa still in Hairspray [as Wilbur] when you were in it?
He was, isn’t that funny? I went to lunch with him and Matt Morrison [then playing Link] midway through my run, and I was like “Omigosh, so tell me about Rags! I saw your performance on the Tonys.” He was really sweet about it.
I hear you have a cute actor boyfriend.
Yeah, he’s cute! His name is Collin Batten, and he’s in Blue Man Group. He and Nicole [Parker] can relate to each other because they both always have paint in their ear or on their hairline [laughs]. We played softball together in the Broadway Show League a couple of years ago. He played shortstop and I played second base, so we always joked that we were the best double play-making team in the league.
Since you’re planning on moving back to California soon, you’re obviously not afraid of a long-distance relationship.
That’s how we started. He went to Chicago and then Las Vegas for Blue Man Group, I went to California to do Cry-Baby in La Jolla, and then I came back to New York. That first year we were kind of apart; it’s part of the territory in this business. We’ll figure it out.
See Alli Mauzey in Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.