Christina DeCicco on her high-flying stunts, Evita mishaps, and Vitamix guilty pleasure

Christina DeCicco

Christina DeCicco

From a powdered-pink persona to a high-flying spider woman, Christina DeCicco has conquered almost every realm of musical theatre. Her Broadway credits hail from Sister Act, Evita, and most recently Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and she also performed in the first national tour of Wicked. After hitting it out of the park and making a name for herself after performing regularly as Eva Peron (she went on during Wednesday evening and Saturday matinee performances along with filling in when Elena Roger went on vacation) she skyrocketed to Broadway stardom. Christina has been a part of the Spider-Man cast for three months now, and as usual, she has taken this new challenge in stride.

SDD: How is Spider-Man going?

Christina DeCicco: Spider-Man is awesome. We just had rehearsal. We’re putting in our new alternate for Peter Parker.  I can’t wait for him to join our company.

SDD: That’s awesome. Are you doing any stunts in the show?

DeCicco: I do a little bit of flying. I don’t do any of the amazing things like flying over the audience, although I have to say that in rehearsals, I convinced them to let me do few of the big swoops across the audience. I don’t walk on the stage at all. My entire track as Arachne is flying. I get brought down from the ceiling and brought back up. There is one point where Peter Parker and I do a little hovering in the air. It’s very cool.

SDD: How was your audition process for that, and what was it like to learn how to do that?

DeCicco: Well at first, it was just a normal ‘go in the room, sing your songs and work with the director’ and then a couple of us met at the theatre and had to learn how to do the turning upside down on the line. That’s what happens when Peter and I go up in the air and we circle each other upside down a couple of times. We learned how to do that and that was part of our checklist to see if we could play the part because it’s a really beautiful technical moment of the show with the set and the lighting. It looks like Arachne and Peter Parker are hovering around each other and having this otherworldly conversation. It’s really magical.

SDD: Now that you’re doing stunts in Spider-Man, would ever consider doing something more extreme, like what they’re doing in Pippin?

DeCicco: I would die to, yes. I have always wanted to fly in a show and now I’m getting to do it. It’s just feeding the bug. I would love to do some crazy aerial thing. I like being really physical and athletic, so if I could get on some spy TV show or some crazy theatre thing that makes me fly to the sky, I would love it.

SDD: And in Wicked, obviously you were in that bubble. Is this a bit more extreme?

DeCicco: It’s a little bit different because with the bubble, we’re actually standing on a platform and it’s just that the automation of the show is bringing us around. With the flying in this show, yes the automation kind of controls us, but we have a lot more physical control and we determine whether the flight is successful or not. They actually send us to this school called Revolution in Motion and they train you to use your muscles and that helps a lot when you’re upside down. It’s not something you train for in theatre school. It’s a particular skill now that anyone who’s been in the cast of Spider-Man has.

SDD: What’s your favorite song or scene in Spider-Man?

DeCicco: I remember going to see what they call the version 1.0, before they stopped it and reworked the score and the script. I saw it way early in the preview process and I was struck by the opening scene with the weavers, with the girls on the silk that go back and forth and weave this tapestry in the air at the very opening of the show. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I’m sad a little bit that I’m not able to see it, but I’m proud because it’s my scene and they’re weaving for me. I take possession over it. That’s my favorite moment in the show. It’s so beautiful.

SDD: What’s your favorite song to sing in the show?

DeCicco: I love singing “Rise Above.” It’s so great.

SDD: So you’re enjoying all of this?

DeCicco: It’s so much fun. When was in Wicked, I never thought that I would be part of a show that could be bigger. I was always blown away by the lighting and the set and the costumes and the grandeur of it. Really, on Broadway over the last few years, has kind of lent itself toward an intimate setting with smaller shows. The best thing about Broadway, and Spider-Man being on Broadway, is actually that it’s big. There’s a huge set and bright lights and great costumes. There’s the spectacle of it all. The spectacle of that show and the technical elements are humongous. This is the new millennium way to do it. It really is remarkable.

SDD: Is it safe to say that you’ve completely immersed yourself in this role by now?

DeCicco: Definitely. When you first start, you think you have a handle on it but once you settle in, you realize all of the nuances that you can bring to it. It’s the ground that you can bring to something that’s never on the floor. The storytelling is wonderful, and my favorite part is bringing in all of the little quirks that you develop when you’re in the role for a while.

SDD: So you grew up on Long Island and you were born in Brooklyn, right?

DeCicco: My family’s from Brooklyn and I was born in Brooklyn but I grew up in Hyland Park, Long Island, the Long Beach area.

SDD: I know that I read somewhere how you feel about the commute on the Long Island Railroad. I know it well. Did you ever feel like you were so close to the city and to this aspiration of yours but at the same time so far away because you weren’t actually living in Manhattan?

DeCicco: A little bit, but it was almost inspiring, too. I’m a person where I like to have my personal life and my work life. I think that, as an actor, it’s important to have involvement in things that don’t deal with your craft. It was kind of symbolic to me to get on a train and go into the city where all of the dreams were being made and sort of chasing my dream that I would work hard toward. I would get on the 5:20am train and go to Equity, read online for Equity principle auditions, or go to the gym or a dance class or a rehearsal studio to warm up for my audition and then go to the audition, maybe meet a friend for lunch and plan the rest of the auditions and then come back home to my real life. It was a really exciting time. There was a lot of energy, because I did that when I was younger, but it was very exciting to think that I was making my dreams come true by doing this.

SDD: After auditioning for so long, what was more fulfilling for you: booking your gig with Wicked or your Broadway debut?

DeCicco: I remember getting the call in the beginning of my career that I was going to play Maria in West Side Story at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and that was like handing me an Oscar at the time. Each role that I’ve played fulfilled another dream and was another check on the checklist like ‘Okay, I’ve got that down and now I’ve got that down as well.’ Wicked fulfilled so many dreams and taught me so much about commercial theatre and about this business of Broadway that I had no idea about. I was able to bring that to each of my other jobs. Finally getting on Broadway, it was like getting home. In the beginning, Broadway was just dreams and magic and sparkle and as I got older, it became more practical. I could be home with my family and go to work and live my dream every day. That’s what it was about. My first Broadway show was like ‘Thank goodness, I’m here! This is wonderful!’ I’ve been really lucky in my three Broadway shows that from the creatives down to the rest of the actors and the crew and the musicians and the wardrobe, everyone who works in the building, everyone’s been really wonderful and really excited to do their job. Those have been really great Broadway experiences for me. My first Broadway show, I was in the ensemble and I was an understudy. My second Broadway show, I was an alternate and getting to play this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime role. Now, in Spider-Man, I’m a principle and I’m playing the show eight times a week and it’s my role now. Each thing is another step forward, another rung on the ladder, so I can’t say that one is more exciting than the other because they all mean different things.

SDD: Did you see the film version of Sister Act before booking the job? How far before did you see that movie, or did you end up watching it afterwards?

DeCicco: No, I grew up on Sister Act, the movie. I remember my cousins and my aunts and my uncles and we’d all sing “I Will Follow Him.” I knew the music anyway because when we’d take family trips, every time I went in the car, my parents would put on 101.1 and we’d listen to all those oldies and Motown. I was very well versed in the music that was in the movie. I have inside jokes with my aunts and uncles where we’ll say, ‘Alma, turn the hearing aid up!’ I remember making the call to tell my family that I got Sister Act and I was the understudy for the nun, they all thought that I was understudying Whoopi Goldberg’s part. I was like ‘Come on, guys! Which part would I understudy?’ It was so exciting and we love the movie. I actually haven’t seen it in quite a long time because our version was so different. I was more excited about working on our version of the musical because it was all original music that Alan Menken had written. I didn’t go back and be like ‘In the movie, they did it like this,’ because it was a different thing and that was a fun little memory to attach to it, but our show was something different and exciting in its own way.

SDD: So is it safe to say that when you were growing up and watching Sister Act, you never thought that that would be your Broadway debut?

DeCicco: No! Never in a million years. I love that it was and my family, to this day, are still like ‘We can’t believe you played a nun!’ I’m from a big, Italian, Catholic family so that’s a joke to them. No, I never thought it would be, let alone that it would be turned into a musical and I’m going to be in it on Broadway one day! It was an amazing anecdote to my life.

SDD: When they announced that it was a musical, were you excited?

DeCicco: Oh, yeah! I knew that they had done it in California but I hadn’t realized that it was continuing a life. I originally got called in almost a year before we started to play Mary Robert and I got down to the end for that and I didn’t get the part. When they were casting their ensemble, I was like ‘Please let me come in, I want to audition.’ I had worked so hard and it was like ‘Please let me into this Broadway show!’ It worked out.

SDD: Now I want to go into Evita. Can you remember anything about the first time you went on as Eva Peron or was it too much of a rush?

DeCicco: It really was. It was such a blur. Because I was the alternate, they were rehearsing Elena Roger in their show and I was kind of their backup, so we really didn’t have too much rehearsal time. My first show, we were still in rehearsals for me. There were scenes that we had done of couple of times but that was it. We had a few rehearsals but a lot of my rehearsal process was sitting and watching. That first time I did it was basically a dress rehearsal in front of 1400 people or however many people the Marquis fits. It was life changing because I remember being like ‘Okay, it’s time to jump in the water, sink or swim. I have to figure it out and be proud if I come through all the way.’ I had a lot of family and friends there, so that made it even more wonderful. I felt like ‘I know I have loving people in the audience, no one will boo me because there are people there who will beat them up!’ I just remember finishing and going out to dinner afterwards and thinking that I couldn’t believe I had just done that. I was like ‘Now I’m ready to work and remember each moment.’

SDD: What was your last performance like?

DeCicco: I have memories of being a teenager and wanting to sing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” because it’s such an iconic role and I just wanted to take in every moment and remember what it feels like. Entering it as a performer, you don’t know when your last show is going to be. You don’t know if you’re going to have a hard time getting another job after this one. This amazing show with this amazing group of people was ending for me and I wanted to have moments with all of my castmates on stage and off. I wanted to tell this story to the best of my ability. It was a dream. It was absolutely a dream of 13-year-old Christina singing in her bedroom as a teenager and just coming to fruition. It was something I’m very proud of.

SDD: I read that when you were preparing for Evita, you and Elena Roger read and re-read this biography about Eva Peron. You did that, but did you ever look back to past performances, such as, of course, Patti LuPone’s?

DeCicco: Well, like I said, I grew up with the music of Evita so I had heard Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige and all of the other women who have done it. I didn’t want to rely on them. There’s really no footage of anything. My friend did have a bootleg of the original Broadway production and I watched that very early on. It was transferred from VHS and I don’t know how people recorded it! People had to have brought in a movie camera, but somebody recorded the original cast with Patti LuPone of Evita on Broadway and I watched that once just to see what it was about. It was very, very early on, and I was cast almost a year before we started rehearsals. I knew it had to come from you. It might be a very similar performance or it might be a very different performance, you just never know. It has to come from inside you and not replicate what someone else did. I knew that I wasn’t Patti or Elaine Paige and I wasn’t Elena Roger, so I had to make it come from inside me.

SDD: I feel like you’ve played almost every kind of role possible. How do you approach all these different kinds of music?

DeCicco: I just have fun with what I do. I remember getting the call that I had an appointment to go in for Arachne in Spider-Man and my agent and I laughed. I thought that I could never be in Spider-Man. I’m not cool and hip enough to be in Spider-Man! I work with Reeve Carney every night and he has an amazing voice and I was like ‘How does he do that every night?’ I just thought that I would have fun with it and stretch myself and be the Arachne that I would be if they hired me. I think it’s really about having fun with it and having the confidence to go in like ‘This is the way I would do it if I were in your production of it.’ Luckily, my version worked with what they were doing. Hopefully, I’ll get to play some even stranger and completely different things in the future. That’s the best part about being an actor is playing people who are so different from who you are.

SDD: What’s been your favorite kind of role to do? Do you enjoy going into your legit soprano, belting, or the rock music of Spider-Man?

DeCicco: I don’t know if I have a preference. It’s super fun and while I’m in a show, I like to do things on the side. In my voice lessons during Evita or Spider-Man, I’ll try to sing some opera even though I’m not an opera singer. I try to stretch myself in all different directions and see what lands in a good spot. It’s helping me prepare for what I’m doing, because I’m not doing the same thing all the time.

SDD: Do you have any dream roles in shows that are currently on Broadway?

DeCicco: I don’t know. I’d like to do something new.

SDD: Really?

DeCicco: If there’s ever a revival of My Fair Lady, I’d love a crack at Eliza Doolittle.

SDD: I think that’s happening!

DeCicco: I’m not attached to it, but I’d love to be in it!

SDD: Maybe someone will see the interview and call you in. You never know.

DeCicco: Maybe! We’re putting it out into the universe. I’d love to be a part of things that haven’t happened yet.

SDD: What about Phantom of the Opera? You saw that in sixth grade and you were in love with it, right?

DeCicco: I was in love with it. I don’t know, am I a little too old for Christine?

SDD: No!

DeCicco: The thing is, the opportunities kind of come for me and try hard to be prepared when they’re there. I don’t know, maybe I’ll be in Phantom of the Opera one day. Maybe all of my opera voice lessons will have paid off!

SDD: Which character that you’ve played have you most identified with?

DeCicco: I will say, I’m not power-hungry or anything like that, but I really identified with Evita because my tagline for her was, ‘I’ve done that, what’s next?’ Her whole story was just striving to do the next thing and I very much identify with that. I’m like ‘Hey, I played that role, what am I going to get into now? We’ve done that vacation, what’s the next one? I’ve read that book, what’s the next one to read?’ I think it definitely has to be Evita in that aspect.

SDD: Do you have any preshow rituals?

DeCicco: Nothing too extreme. For Arachne, I have to be at the theatre an hour beforehand, so I like to get there an hour and a half beforehand to do my vocal warm-ups, get into my robe before our makeup artist, Angela, comes in and starts transforming me. I make a cup of tea and relax and chat with everybody. Nothing too extreme. I come back after I get my makeup done and my wig on and start stretching and listen to fun pop music like Ke$ha or Britney Spears or something to get my energy up.

SDD: Do you think you’ve reached that point in your career yet where you’ve looked back and realized that a certain performance or show you’ve been in has helped you grow? Was there a precise turning point for you as a performer?

DeCicco: Absolutely. I try to learn something from everything I do, but I would say that being Glinda and being in Wicked was huge, life lessons and work lessons and everything. It changed everything. It changed my work ethic and how I understand theatre. I learned a lot about myself and my personality and how I work with people, which is good to know when you’re working in such a people-oriented business. Definitely Glinda.

SDD: To aspiring performers that were in your position, when you were auditioning for a year and not booking anything, what advice would you give to them?

DeCicco: When I was first starting, I tried not to beat myself up. If an audition didn’t go well, I tried to determine what went wrong so I wouldn’t do it again. If I didn’t job, I would wonder why I didn’t get it and see if I did anything wrong to avoid doing that the next time. Sometimes you’re amazing and you’d do great in a role, but someone who has been cast already is tall and you aren’t tall enough or you’re too skinny or you’re too big or you’re too old or you’re too young. Sometimes there are some things out of your control that you can’t “fix.” You have to not beat yourself up about it and just go to your next audition and walk in the room and think ‘I’m going to solve all of their problems today. This is my fun little two minutes to perform and get to do what I do best.’

Christina DeCicco taking her first bow as Arachne in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Christina DeCicco taking her first bow as Arachne in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

SDD: If you could play any part that you haven’t already played, which would you choose?

DeCicco: Eliza Doolittle.

SDD: If you could have a drink with anyone on Broadway, who would you choose?

DeCicco: David Hyde Pierce.

SDD: Good choice. Classy.

DeCicco: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was amazing. It was just incredible. The whole cast was amazing, I want to have a drink with all of them.

SDD: If you could trade places with anyone on Broadway right now, who would you choose?

DeCicco: I like where I am! It’s idealistic. I like where I am and I don’t want to trade.

SDD: Who was the last person to make you feel star struck?

DeCicco: I don’t meet very many famous people. I think back when I was auditioning for 9 to 5, their tour, when Dolly Parton was in the room. I was very starstruck. Dolly Parton was just standing there and being lovely and beautiful and wonderful, as if she’s everybody’s mother. You just don’t know what to do in her presence.

SDD: What’s been your most memorable fan experience so far?

DeCicco: People don’t ever recognize me at the stage door of every show I’ve ever done. People are always like ‘You were great, too!’ Even when I was Eva! I have always been fortunate to get love and support once people realize that they just saw me do something. Once people realize I was in the show they just saw, they’re always very lovely and warm and it makes me feel grateful to do what I just did.

SDD: What’s the last great show that you saw on stage?

DeCicco: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by far. I am obsessed with it. It’s so good! I take my husband to things all the time and I always tell him, ‘It’ll be great,’ but he was rolling on the floor. It was so funny but also so poignant and touching and everyone in that cast is just brilliant. Pippin is amazing, too! Actually, if I could trade places with anyone, it would be Patina Miller. She is brilliant in Pippin. How did I forget?

SDD: I was just about to ask you about her, so that’s good!

DeCicco: She’s the best. I adore Patina and I was screaming on Tony night when she won. I was so excited for her and her recent engagement. The world of possibilities and opportunities is opening up for her and she deserves every second of it.

SDD: If you could describe her in one word, which would you pick?

DeCicco: Fierce. She just is. She embodies fierceness.

SDD: I agree. If you could describe Ricky Martin in one word, which would it be?

DeCicco: Lovely. He’s kind, definitely kind. All he wanted to do was be part of the cast, playing and having a good time. He still keeps in touch with all of us.

SDD: Did you all tend to forget, because he was such a part of the cast, that he has this big music career behind him?

DeCicco: It was very hard to forget. He was so normal and you could get into a normal conversation where he’d just be silly and fooling around in rehearsal and then you’re just like, ‘Wait. That just happened with Ricky Martin. ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ Ricky Martin. ‘Shaking Your Bon-Bon,’ ‘She Bangs,’ Ricky Martin. It was a bit overwhelming. You had to take a moment when he wasn’t looking. So sweet and so kind.

SDD: If you could describe Reeve Carney in one word, which would it be?

DeCicco: Oh he’s so cute! Cute, with capital letters. C-U-T-E. He’s cute to look at, he’s cute to talk to and when he sings!

SDD: What cast recording have you been listening to a lot recently?

DeCicco: I’m still a little obsessed with The Light in the Piazza. I just think it’s the most beautiful music and I can listen to it over and over and over again. Victoria Clark and Kelli O’Hara are just brilliant singers and actresses. Definitely, I’m still obsessed with that.

SDD: Are you currently obsessed with anything?

DeCicco: I’m a little obsessed with my Vitamix. I just got a Vitamix blender. I love drinking smoothies and it’s just an amazing contraption that, apparently, lots of people have because I posted about it the other day and all of these people were talking about it. I love it! This is totally unrelated to everything else, but I’m obsessed with it. It’s my new baby, my new little toy. Also, my husband and I have been re-watching Friends, the whole series because I have the box set. I’m also obsessed with how brilliant that group of actors was together and the writing on that TV show is so funny.

SDD: Definitely. Can you describe yourself in five words or less?

DeCicco: Loony, stubborn, determined, happy, fair.

SDD: If you weren’t an actor, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

DeCicco: Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor, but once I got my mind set on being an actor, there was no other thing. I probably would’ve been a teacher. An elementary school teacher.

SDD: Do you have any secret talents?

DeCicco: I don’t think so. I cook really well, but people who know me know that’s not a secret. I’m obsessed with cooking. People who know me know that I love it and that I’m good at it.

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