Sitting in the Gershwin Theatre during the original Broadway run of “Wicked” less than a year after it opened, Jennafer Newberry turned to her parents and told them she’d be in the show someday.
In May 2019, her declaration became a reality when she joined the ensemble of the national Broadway tour of “Wicked”; this past March, she took over the role of Glinda the Good.
“It’s always been there,” says the actress of her association with “Wicked.” “We literally sang ‘For Good’ at my high school graduation. It’s just this iconic part of culture and my life, and it’s a dream to by playing the role.”
On Aug. 31, Newberry and the rest of the cast of “Wicked” will fly a broomstick into town for a 12-day run at the Altria Theater.
For the uninitiated, “Wicked” is based on the characters and setting of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and the 1939 MGM film “The Wizard of Oz.” Taking place before and after Dorothy Gale crashes down in Munchkinland, “Wicked” is told from the viewpoint of the witches of the Land of Oz.
In this inventive reworking, we learn that Elphaba, who later becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda, who later becomes Glinda the Good, were roommates at sorcery school. As you might expect, the contrast between the two is stark: Glinda is superficial and in search of adoration, while the highly intelligent Elphaba is green and hopes to use her powers to work with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Originally starring Idina Menzel, Kristen Chenoweth, Joel Gray and Norbert Leo Butz on Broadway, “Wicked” manages to serve both as slick musical and a parable about fascism and genocide. Since it opened in 2003, “Wicked” has become the second-highest grossing musical in Broadway history, trailing only “The Lion King.”
Newberry says that for all of her character’s flaws, she’s a loyal and loving person.
“She is bubbly, fun, vivacious. She loves to be the center of attention,” Newberry says of Glinda. “She’s a little bit naïve in how privileged she is, but underneath that – which might seem a little bit vain – she actually has a really big heart, and she really cares about the people around her.”
In the show, Glinda is torn between the spotlight and doing the right thing.
“I just feel like I learn every day from Glinda when I’m out there. I love the songs that she sings. I love her relationships that she builds throughout the show,” she says. “Glinda’s heart is the thing that gets me. She’s a lot deeper than I think people give her credit for.”
Newberry says it’s been exciting to interact with fans of the show.
“We get the most beautiful fan art,” she says. “I just got a beautiful pair of earrings from a fan who has a beading shop. She made me these beautiful earrings based off of my bubble dress. They love us so well. It’s really nice to feel that from them.”
Ever since the pandemic forced the show to shut down for 16 months, Newberry says she and her castmates will never take performing for a live audience for granted again.
“There’s nothing like it, and I think we just cherish it that much more.”
Broadway in Richmond “Wicked” plays Aug. 31-Sept. 11 at the Altria Theater, 6 N. Laurel St. For more information, visit broadwayinrichmond.com or call (804) 592-3368.