Forever Elphaba: The ladies who have played the spell-binding lead in ‘Wicked’


Willemijn Verkaik as Elphaba

Wicked’s Elphaba is easily one of the most beloved roles on Broadway and in 2013 a brand new star of the show took the reins. On February 12, Dutch actress Willemijn Verkaik made her Broadway debut as the misunderstood witch, and has settled into her first few weeks at the Gerswhin. Willemijn originated the role in the German production of Wicked. She’s also made her mark in We Will Rock You, Elisabeth, and The Three Musketeers. Her name has long been creating a buzz among the Broadway community. Her voice graces Scott Alan’s album What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up, and her accolades for her performances in Wicked overseas have continued to grow. She is the 13th woman to play the role of Elphaba full-time on Broadway since its opening in October 2003.

In celebration of her first few performances on the Gershwin stage, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember the dynamite actresses who have donned that green face paint on the Broadway stage.

As most Wicked fans know, Idina Menzel originated the role on Broadway in October 2003 and stayed with the show until January 2005. She made her Broadway debut in 1996 as Maureen Johnson in Rent and also starred in Aida before her nights performing at the Gershwin. She has since continued her career on film and released her own music.

Idina Menzel as Elphaba

Idina Menzel as Elphaba

Shoshana Bean (January 2005 to January 2006) was the first actress to take on the role full-time after Idina’s departure. She also played the role in the national tour in 2006. She’s gone on to perform a variety show with former Galinda actress Megan Hilty called the Meg an’ Sho Show and performed on Broadway in Hairspray.

Eden Espinosa (January 2006 to October 2006) made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Wicked as Idina’s standby from the show’s opening to September 2004. In 2005, when Stephanie J. Block was recovering from an injury on the national tour, Eden stepped in and covered the role for a month. In early 2006 Eden took the role to Broadway. She also opened Wicked’s Los Angeles production as Elphie in 2007. Eden is also widely known for her starring role in Brooklyn and her wacky portrayal of Maureen Johnson in the closing Broadway cast of Rent.

Ana Gasteyer (October 2006 to January 2007) is best known as a wildly popular star of Saturday Night Live, but she’s also had a rich theatre career. She’s starred in The Threepenny Opera, The Royal Family, and, of course, Wicked. Her first foray into Oz was the show’s Chicago production which opened in 2005. In October 2006 she stepped into the role on Broadway.

Sebastian Arcelus as Fiyero and Julia Murney as Elphaba

Sebastian Arcelus as Fiyero and Julia Murney as Elphaba

Like many other Broadway Elphies, Julia Murney (January 2007 to October 2007) also played the role in the show’s national tour. She left the tour in 2006 and then made her way to Wicked’s Broadway production in January 2007. She’s often recognized for her performance as Queenie in the off-Broadway production of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party. She had long been known among the Broadway community as a great talent but she had yet to make her debut on the Great White Way until Wicked came along.

Stephanie J. Block (October 2007 to June 2008) has been associated with the role of Elphaba since she read the part in Wicked’s very first reading in 2000. When Idina Menzel took on the role, Stephanie was her understudy in the show’s 2003 San Francisco premiere. She left Wicked before it moved to Broadway to make her own Broadway debut as a lead in The Boy from Oz. In 2005 she returned to playing Elphie as she originated the role in the musical’s first national tour. Stephanie at last played Elphaba on the Gershwin stage in October 2007. Wicked has altered her life in more ways than one – she’s now married to former co-star Sebastian Arcelus, who played the Fiyero to her Elphie on the national tour and later joined her in the Broadway production. Stephanie’s many Broadway credits include Anything Goes, 9 to 5, and The Pirate Queen.

Kerry Ellis (June 2008 to November 2008) first joined Wicked in 2006 when the musical opened in London. She was initially a standby during Idina’s three-month run and assumed the role when Idina left the production in 2007. Immediately following her run in London, she began performing the role on Broadway. Kerry has been seen in the likes of We Will Rock You, Les Miserables, Oliver, and Rent.

Marcie Dodd

Marcie Dodd

Marcie Dodd (November 2008 to January 2009) began her time in Wicked as a member of the ensemble in the first national tour as she understudied the roles of Elphaba and Nessarose. After a year on tour, she took on the role of Nessa full time, working her way up from an ensemble member to a lead.  She replaced Kerry Ellis as Elphaba in the Broadway production in 2008 and is the only actress to have played both Nessarose and Elphaba in full-time roles.

Nicole Parker (January 2009 to July 2009) joined Wicked in 2009, having previously performed on Broadway in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. Outside of Broadway, she’s mostly known for her success on MADtv and other onscreen performances. She has a wealth of theatrical experience to go alongside her TV fame. She is now playing Elphaba in the Wicked national tour.

Dee Roscioli (July 2009 – March 2010) began as an Elphaba standby in the Chicago production in 2006, and joined Wicked’s New York cast in 2009, making her Broadway debut. Dee has played Elphaba in more performances than any other actress. She’s also performed in the national tour of Cats, a cabaret performance entitled Decidedly Dee and Sweeney Todd at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival.

Annaleigh Ashford as Glinda and Dee Roscioli as Elphaba

Annaleigh Ashford as Glinda and Dee Roscioli as Elphaba

Mandy Gonzalez (March 2010 to January 2011) was a member of the ensemble in one of the show’s earliest readings. She was asked to play Elphaba in the show’s first national tour in 2007, but turned it down in order to play Nina Rosario in the Broadway production of In The Heights, a role she received widespread acclaim for. She at last put on the green face paint as Elphie in 2010. She’s also performed on Broadway in Aida, Dance of the Vampires, and Lennon.

Teal Wicks (February 2011 to September 2011) began as a standby for Elphaba in the Los Angeles production in January 2008 and later took on the role full-time. She also performed in the San Francisco production before moving to Broadway in 2011. Her loyal fanbase, known as “TWickies,” can be found nearby no matter where her career takes her. She is set to return to Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde.

Jackie Burns (September 2011 to February 2013) just departed Wicked on Broadway last month after a run that lasted over a year, having previously starred in the production’s national tour. Jackie was in the original cast of Rock of Ages and made her Broadway debut in 2009 in Hair.

Do you have a favorite Elphaba? Let me know in comments!

About Claire H.

Writer, performer, picture-taker, New Yorker. Find me on Twitter at @Claire_Hannum.
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11 Responses

  1. Eden Espinosa was also in the San Francisco sit-down production at the Orpheum Theatre. ironically that was also the theatre where she had her last performance on tour (both last performances opposite Kendra Kassebaum as Glinda)

  2. Enjoyed your post but the last word of the first sentence should be reins, not reigns. Spellcheck is a fickle friend!

  3. Lets see this same thing for the role of Glinda!!!!!

  4. Jackie Burns was my favorite Elphaba and she starred with her Glinda, Chandra Lee Schwartz.

  5. Jackie Burns was my favorite Elphaba ever….!!!

  6. Stephanie J. Block was my first Elphie and I admire her greatly. Idina is an idol of mine also, so I can’t comment without mentioned the fabulous lady, Idina.

    • Stephanie’s fantastic, no matter what show she does I’m continually astounded at how freakin talented she is!