Saturday, November 2, 2013

Felicia Ricci on Wicked, Elphaba, Unnaturally Green, and her new Online singing course "Belt Your Face Off."


Unnaturally Green
Felicia Ricci was the standby for Elphaba in the closing San Francisco company of Wicked, playing the role over  40 times!  As of now, she is the only Wicked cast member to have written and published a book exclusively about her/his experience with the show.  That book, titled Unnaturally Green: One Girl's Journey Along a Yellow Brick Road Less Traveled was released in October of 2011, to great acclaim from Wicked and theatre fans alike and was recently featured on the popular author site BookWorks.com (check out the post here). Ricci has just released an online singing course, called Belt Your Face Off, where she teaches some of the skills and technique that she used to sing the role of Elphaba properly.

While you were in Wicked, did you plan on writing a book about your experience?  If so, did you make sure to document your experiences?

It certainly wasn't my intention from the beginning. I did feel that getting cast as a total newbie into such a big show in such a big role was very intriguing, so I began chronicling everything about my experience in my blog. It was a real-life suspense narrative that was unfolding before my eyes. Throughout the process, as each new exciting event made the story more and more compelling, I began to think to myself, "Hey, this would make a great book." 

Many Elphies say that being in Wicked was the most challenging and trying yet rewarding experience of their career, and we heard a lot about all of that in the book.  What is the greatest thing you took away from the whole WICKED experience, in any sense (as an actress,singer, or human being?)

Learning that I could do something that seemed literally impossible. It isn't an exaggeration to say that when I got cast I thought I was totally screwed and wouldn't be able to play Elphaba, ever. The act of realizing that fear alters your perception of what is and isn't possible is a very powerful experience.

Ricci as Elphaba
In Unnaturally Green, I admire your honesty about "living the dream" and your refusal to act like you're on a talk show.  What gives you the confidence and ability to be so vulnerable on paper in front of the many who have or will read about your book?

Wow, thank you, that's sweet. I do try to be honest. I guess I can't help it? I wear my heart on my sleeve, which can be good, but also terrible, like any time that I'm trying to negotiate with anyone, about anything. (I can also be insecure and non-confrontational, so maybe that contributes, too.) (Okay, now I'm just psycho-analyzing myself...) I also think that the act of being vulnerable is what drew me to acting and writing in the first place, as both are crafts that require you to be 100% honest about human behavior and the true nature of stuff. Or else you're just a terrible actor or writer. Yeah, I hate BS. It makes me cringe. 

If you were to return to the show one day, what advice would you give yourself?

Hm. I would encourage myself to take more risks in terms of acting the part of Elphaba. As standby, I wasn't given too much leeway in terms of acting choices, but I still think about the character of Elphaba a lot, and I believe there's so much potential for exploration. Also, I would encourage myself to create a much more optimal living situation while in the show, i.e. shack up in an apartment that isn't in the worst neighborhood of all time (no offense, San Francisco, but the Tenderloin stressed me out).

When you told the powers that be at Wicked that you were writing a book, how did they respond to the idea?  Were they supportive?

Bwahahaha! You complimented me about my honesty earlier and now you're pitching this tricky question! Here's the long and short of it. In the end, Wicked was supportive of Unnaturally Green. Meaning they said I could write it, but they didn't wish to be affiliated with it.

Initially, one of the producers was (understandably) concerned that I would say bad stuff about the show, or write a "tell-all" that was mud-slinging or something. We had several conversations that were quite nerve-wracking on my end, because I'd already invested so much time in the project. 

But, in the end -- after I assured him there was nothing bad or slanderous, and offered to let him read the book before publication -- he gave me the go-ahead. He later wrote me an email saying he thought the book was "really great," which made me feel good and pretty validated. I recently reached out to see if Wicked might give Unnaturally Green some more consideration as Wicked merchandise, but they, unfortunately, declined. But whatever! I'm a rogue!

So, yeah, that's how it went down. Everything is cool, but we're separate and Wicked wants to keep it that way.

All throughout Unnaturally Green, I felt a range of different emotions coming from you.  You expressed excitement, grief, stress, heartbreak, and other aspects of humanity.  However, while reading, I never stopped laughing.  I managed to feel all of those feelings and still find the book hilarious.  Do you find that that writing skill bled over into your portrayal of Elphaba and telling her story?

Ricci's "Elphie Selphie"
Hey, thanks! You know, I'm not sure! Elphaba expresses a complex range of emotions throughout her journey, as well, and she is not without a great sense of humor. So I guess, yeah!

Along the lines of Paul Wontorek's questions on Broadway.com to various Elphabas on the 10th Anniversary, what do you think sets YOU apart from the many other ladies who have played the role all over the world?  Also, on the Wicked poster, what do you think Glinda is whispering in Elphaba's ear?

That I wrote a book about it! As for the poster: Elphaba is totes smirking, so I must assume Glinda has broken wind and is in the midst of confessing.

Why should people buy this book?  What do you want readers/fans of the show to take away from Unnaturally Green?

There are lots of celebrity and theater memoirs, but Unnaturally Green is told through the lens of someone completely new to the theater profession, and I think that makes it relatable. Hopefully people can put themselves in my shoes and experience the thrills and challenges right there with me!

Lastly, what other projects are you currently working on?  You're writing a new book, right?

I've been keeping busy! I just released an online singing course that teaches you how to belt-sing, using all the techniques that helped me conquer the role of Elphaba. It's called Belt Your Face Off and it's a lot of fun (you should definitely take it!). There's also an e-book starter guide that's going to be free and released through Amazon Kindle and other e-readers. And yes, indeed, I am writing yet another book! This one is fiction, though, which is incredibly challenging for me. Before Unnaturally Green I wrote a ton of non-fiction in college and recreationally, so the memoir voice and form felt very natural. Fiction, on the other hand, feels like a total departure. Meaning: it might be a little while before I whip my novel into shape. But it will happen! I'll be sure to keep you posted. I've always got lots of things cooking!

Ricci's "Belt Your Face Off" image!

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