Age & Hometown: “Finally old enough to play Glinda on Broadway”; San Marcos, California.
Current Role: Arriving on Broadway by bubble in her first starring role, Glinda in Wicked.
Here She Is… In her earliest at-home performances, Schwartz danced to Madonna’s Like a Prayer album wearing stretch pants and leg warmers. But when she asked for voice lessons at age 11, a stroke of luck pointed her in a different direction. “An Italian opera singer moved into a development my father had supervised being built,” she recalls. “He gave me a great classical foundation.” Her newfound singing skills led to a brief foray into the world of beauty pageants. “I was, like, Miss Pre-Teen San Diego,” she says with a laugh. “I was so embarrassed about that for so long, but I guess it's part of what got me here so I'll try not to dis them.” In high school, Schwartz made another detour, joining a ska band called The Rudys. “We performed all over San Diego, in L.A.; we made records,” she says. “It was pretty cool.”
On the Right Track: A community college production of Pippin finally got Schwartz into musicals. “I didn’t know anything about theater,” she says, “but I thought, ‘Hey, I can sing.’” Scoring the role of the Leading Player, she was hooked, left California for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, and booked shows almost immediately. A teacher, Phillip George, offered her a spot in Forbidden Broadway at the aptly named Gateway Playhouse on Long Island, and during the run she went to an open call for the Broadway revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. “I ‘borrowed’ tap shoes from the wardrobe department,” she remembers, and much to her surprise, “I was kept all day, until there we only 10 of us.” Just before graduation, she heard she’d been cast as Agnes.
Popular Girl: Rehearsals for Gypsy got off to an exciting start at the bagel table, of all places. “Stephen Sondheim was there, and I said, ‘Hi, Mr. Sondheim, I’m Chandra, I’m playing Agnes.’ And he said, ‘I know who you are. You’re funny!’” According to Schwartz, who went on to play Sharpay in High School Musical and Penny in Hairspray, “Comic roles just make sense to me. I played an ingenue once in a reading and thought, ‘Nope, don’t wanna do that anymore. BO-ring!’” Comic timing is essential for Glinda, a role Schwartz honed on tour for nearly two years. “I have so much fun with her,” she says, “and [the Wicked team] really lets you make the role yours.” Now that she’s a Broadway star, her recent training as a yoga teacher will come in handy: “I wanted to learn how to incorporate the philosophy, that peaceful existence, into my daily life.”