Star of the Week: Heidi Blickenstaff’s Flair Makes Her a True Renaissance Woman

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by Celeste Montaño

Heidi Blickenstaff specializes in duality. Though best known as one of Broadway’s funniest ladies, audiences have fallen in love with Blickenstaff over and over again because she has a knack for finding a character’s tender, vulnerable pulse even in the midst of chaos and hilarity. It’s her ability to belt a campy tune in one act and an unexpectedly delicate ballad in the next that’s allowed Blickenstaff to create such memorable roles, casting her as a Broadway regular for nearly a decade.

Blickenstaff’s most recent role as the daring yet fiercely loyal Bea in Something Rotten! has earned her much affection and admiration, particularly as one of the most explicitly feminist characters on Broadway at the moment. Her performance also earned her a 2015 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical.

Like many of Blickenstaff’s characters, Bea is simultaneously gutsy and sensitive, going hunting despite 16th century gender norms and ultimately using her wits to save her husband’s life. She takes pleasure in subverting expectations that stifle her, yet “Right Hand Man” reveals Bea’s loving nature—and above all, her yearning to be taken seriously and included in her husband’s life.

Bea’s husband, the misguided but well-intentioned playwright Nick Bottom, is currently played by Brian d’Arcy James but Rob McClure will be taking over for his fellow Tony nominee in the first week of June.

Blickenstaff’s appearance as Susan Hershey in the 2000 production of The Full Monty marked her Broadway debut, with Blickenstaff pulling double duty as the understudy for the role of Vicki Nichols. She also understudied the deliciously villainous role of Ursula in 2007’s The Little Mermaid, but her main track was actually the opposite of evil: as Carlotta, Blickenstaff was a patient maternal figure, one of Ariel’s few friends in the castle. Blickenstaff pulled off both roles flawlessly and hilariously as a testament to her versatility.

Blickenstaff took some time away from The Little Mermaid to star in the wildly inventive fan-favorite [title of show]. Blickenstaff initially joined the [title of show] cast in 2004 and was part of two successful Off-Broadway runs before reprising her role on Broadway in 2008. Though Blickenstaff was already halfway through a successful run of The Little Mermaid—in which she was about to take over the role of Ursula full-time—the stylized version of herself that appeared in [title of show] became Blickenstaff’s breakthrough role. She also received a Drama League Award nomination for her performance in [title of show].

Even amidst the post-modern experimental fun, Blickenstaff’s deeply personal rendition of “A Way Back to Then” stopped the show nightly and earned her a dedicated legion of fans that related intensely to her character.

“A Way Back to Then” serves as a comprehensive display of what makes Blickenstaff so unique. With one song alone, she demonstrates the talent for nuance that makes her characters so memorable, proving over and over again that she is so much more than a right hand man. 

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