Interview with WICKED Cast Member Carla Stickler

WICKED is heading to San Diego for a third time, but is currently playing in Sacramento, California where cast member Carla Stickler graciously took some time off to talk to me about her life, and what it’s like to be part of the traveling tour company for WICKED.

The singer and dancer has been with WICKED’s First National Touring Company for three and half years.  Carla Stickler started dancing and singing as part of the ensemble cast and later became the understudy for Nessarose and standby for the title role of Elphaba — better known to you and me as the Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz.

She told me that before she became a singer in one of the country’s most popular musicals she was an athlete and an artist, and that she also majored in Ceramics. But this young and talented Illinois native grew up surrounded by singers in her family; her mother’s chamber ensemble practice for hours on end at home, and she heard her opera-singing grandmother’s voice as child. Though you could say Stickler was genetically predisposed to be a singer, her path was not as clear as you might think.

Carla took her time figuring out her life’s passion. Though musical talent surrounded her, she didn’t completely give into her musical theater calling until she went to college. “I didn’t want to be a cookie-cutter musical theater kid,” she emphatically told me over our 30 minute telephone interview. “I wanted to be able to do things other than theater to keep me busy – especially during hard times in between bookings,” she said.

And Stickler did find other things to do. Growing up, Carla played softball on championship teams; and she took on the grueling work outs of figure skating as a child, too. In middle school, she joined choir and toured with The Oak Park River Forest Children’s Choir to England.

Reflecting on her diverse interests growing up, she said she was glad to have learned a lot of different things before deciding to pursue musical theater. “I didn’t want to sing just because it was what my family did or what they wanted me to do,” she told me. “I wanted to do it because I was good at it, and it took time for me to find out that I was good at it!”

After high school, Carla went to the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music as a Vocal Performance Major, and then transferred to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as a Theatre Major at the Lee Strasberg Institute.

Stickler spent some time between colleges trying to figure out her direction, and had to work her way through this.  “I worked at a deli slicing meats to help pay my way because my parents weren’t going to let me live off of them,” she reiterated. So it hasn’t been all glamour and theater for the 29-year-old. The lessons she drew from these experiences are very important to her because they taught her how to be, in her words, “a normal person for a minute.”

I asked her if she could share one thing that has seen her through tough times and she decidedly answered, “Keep your hobbies and interests going because this makes you an interesting person.” She also pointed out during our conversation that having something to fall back on when you don’t have work in the industry, will keep you busy instead of angry when going to multiple auditions and not landing any work.

In WICKED, Carla is the standby for the title character Elphaba, the emerald-skinned and misunderstood girl who is judged by her looks when she is also bright and determined. However, Carla doesn’t get to play this main character in consecutive shows. As an understudy, Carla has to rehearse with other understudies to keep her character sharp in case one of the main actors gets hurt, sick or is unable to fulfill their role.

Stickler is usually notified about two hours ahead of time when she’ll be playing this role. “But, I’ve also been told to get ready during intermission!” she chuckled. Though this sounds hard to do, Carla said she can be green-hued and ready to hit the stage in about 20 minutes, which is the average length of the break.

One of the most talked about stunts in the play is that some of the actors fly. I asked Carla if it’s scary to ‘fly’ in WICKED.  She told me with some reservation that it looks scarier than it really is. “I stand on what looks like a cherry picker. I step into it and it closes around me and then lifts me!”

So what does Carla do backstage when she’s not playing the part of Elphaba? Besides singing and dancing, the talented actress indulges her artistic side by crafting. “I’ve learned how to bead and I make bracelets which my fellow cast members seem to like. I also like to read,” she admitted. “But, I’m always listening to the play in the background just in case something happens and I need to step into the role of Elphaba,” Carla said.  And she’s had to this about 14 times in the last couple of years.

Will you be able to see Carla when WICKED lands in San Diego June 20th? Yes, but not on stage at the Civic Theater (at least not as of this writing).

On the weekend of July 9th, Carla will be joining some of her fellow cast members in Oceanside, Ca. for the Educational Theater Association’s “Making Magic, Defying Gravity” charity event. Proceeds from this event benefit the Educational Theatre Association’s Scholarship Fund. The event will take place at Mission Vista High School, 1306 Melrose Dr. in Oceanside on Monday, July 9, 2012.  The performance begins at 7:00 p.m.

But you can catch Carla Stickler center stage at PETCO Park for the Padres game on June 20th, opening night of WICKED in San Diego, singing the National Anthem.

Carla is very excited to this because she’s only sung the National Anthem once before at a Bulls game with two other cast mates near her hometown in Chicago. “I’m excited and nervous because this is my first time singing solo,” she told me. “Since my boyfriend is an avid baseball fan, I don’t know who is more excited about me singing at the game, him or me!” she added.

It was just announced that a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of orchestra seats will be held for WICKED in San Diego. Two and one-half hours prior to each performance, people who present themselves at the Civic Theatre box office will have their names placed in a lottery drum; thirty minutes later, names will be drawn for a limited number of orchestra seats at $25 each, cash only. This lottery is available only in-person at the box office, with a limit of two tickets per person. Lottery participants must have a valid photo ID when submitting their entry form, if chosen, when purchasing tickets.

When it played San Diego in 2006 and 2009, WICKED broke box office records and sold out in record time. Winner of 35 major awards, including a Grammy® and three Tony Awards®, WICKED is Broadway’s biggest blockbuster. WICKED will be playing in San Diego again at the Civic Theater June 20th through July 15th.





  1. Sandi says:

    Just saw Carla in Wicked and was totally wowed! This is my 4th time seeing the play and she was amazing in the role. Other than the first time I saw it in 2005, this is by far the best production yet and Carla was a huge part of making it so. I hope audiances get to see more of her!! Thank you, thank you for great entertainment.

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