It’s a rare feat to remain with a Broadway show from first preview to 10th anniversary, but Wicked original cast member Kristen Gorski-Wergeles has done it, with one break of less than nine months last year for maternity leave. As a swing, dance captain and quick change artist, Gorski-Wergeles has seen and done it all—and Broadway.com asked her to share 10 favorite memories from her decade-long run in the mega-hit musical.
1. Lights, Action, Bubble!
Here’s a fun piece of Wicked trivia: I was the first person to ride in Glinda’s bubble. The dance captains were asked to help set the lighting before our pre-Broadway run in San Francisco. Since I’m similar in coloring and pretty much the same height as Kristin Chenoweth, they threw me into the bubble so the designers could get a feel for where Glinda would be standing and how the bubble would move. It’s quite an entrance!
2. Swinging In to the First Preview
I was the original swing and assistant dance captain, and a couple of hours before our first preview in San Francisco, I was told that I would be going on. I didn’t have any costumes of my own—I was sort of thrown on, as you are when you’re a swing! I got to do the role I play now, the witch’s mother, and various dance tracks. It was a totally crazy night, but I remember the reaction of the audience and the excitement of being part of something people were seeing for the first time. I was on cloud nine.
3. Idina & Kristin’s Creative Genius
People ask me, “Who is your favorite Elphaba and Glinda?” and I always say that each witch brings her own flavor to the roles—and they all have to be able to sing their faces off! But it was very special to get to work with Kristin and Idina Menzel, and to see them develop the roles of Glinda and Elphaba. They are both brilliant in their own way, and I learned so much just by watching them. From the very first table read, I could tell that this was going to be a special partnership.
4. A Monkey of a Curtain Call
Over the past 10 years, I have performed every ensemble role, and I often juggle two or three tracks. All I can say is that I’m one of those people who have a brain for switching tracks; it’s always a challenge and I love it. My favorite night was when I got to take a bow as one of the monkeys. Usually at the end of the show, only the male monkeys are in costume, but on this night, I had moved from a female track to that of a monkey. It was such a cool feeling to come out, pull my mask off and have my blonde hair come down. People weren’t expecting to see a girl in a monkey suit!
5. Quick Changes (13, to be Exact!)
I currently play the witch’s mother track, a Shiz student, Emerald City citizen, Ozian citizen and monkey, which means I have 13 costume changes. In fact, I change three times in the first five minutes of the show! I sing four bars of music in the opening number, then Glinda enters and I run offstage and get my mother costume on. I sing with my husband, dance with a lover, drink the green elixir and give birth to Elphaba two seconds later. Then, I go through the door, high-five Lindsay Mendez and change into my Shiz costume—all within the first five minutes.
6. Prepping a Broadway Legend
A major moment for me was meeting and rehearsing with Ben Vereen as the Wizard. He was one of the first big stars to join the cast, and I was really, really excited and nervous about having the responsibility of rehearsing him. Ben Vereen. He’s a legend. But he was so nice, and once he was in the show, he was incredibly supportive of everyone in the cast. He would stand in the wings for most of the first act, before he even made his entrance, and cheer us on. What a wonderful man!
7. Wicked-ly Fun TV Appearances
It’s always special to perform with the cast on TV. We did the opening number at the Tony Awards, and all the swings got to be part of the performance. Hugh Jackman was the host that year, which was extra exciting, and then we came out again at the end of Idina’s performance of “Defying Gravity.” We also did the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Late Night with David Letterman. I’m a huge Letterman fan, so performing for him at the Ed Sullivan Theatre was the greatest.
8. Dancing With the Stars
It’s a joy to be part of charity performances. For me, the most memorable was a concert benefit we hosted for Hurricane Katrina victims featuring people like Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, Bernadette Peters and Wicked stars Megan Hilty and Shoshana Bean. I danced in it and helped choreograph the opening number, which was so meaningful. It ended up being a long night—the concert ran for almost four hours—but every person who participated really wanted to be there.
9. The Joy of Giving Back
Because Wicked is so popular, we get a lot of requests for walk-ons from the people at the Make a Wish Foundation. One of my favorites was the time we had a little girl come in for almost a week of rehearsal to get the full Broadway experience. She got a spot in the dressing room and was on stage for almost the entire show. She was so sweet and excited, and the entire cast had a great time with her. It was a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to be a show that touches people’s lives.
10. Marriage, Motherhood & Wicked
In 2010, it seemed like the entire ensemble got engaged at the same time. It was the Wicked wedding palooza! We all got married in 2011 and started having babies in 2012, two months apart—and everyone had girls. I stayed with the show until I was 18 weeks pregnant, which was pretty far in, but my doctor said it was fine. My daughter, Kylie Madison, was born in June of last year, and I came back to work three months later. I did a lot of yoga and taught dance classes throughout my maternity leave, which helped me bounce back. Everyone at the theater is excited that the Wicked family keeps expanding. Does it feel like 10 years? A lot has happened in my personal life, but as far as the show goes, the answer is no. I still get excited about coming to work every day.