by Ryan Jackson
I recently made my Broadway debut. Honest statement, whenever I say that I smile a little and hear applause in my head. After swinging the Wicked tour for years, I finally found myself walking into the Gershwin Theatre to twirl and serve my best champagne hands.
Colby Lindeman, one of the Broadway dance captains, took me under his wing and made the rehearsal process so smooth. Although the show is made of all the same ingredients as the tour, the tracks are all configured just differently enough to make your brain tingle. We knocked out a track a day, I felt like I was crushing the learning curve with the raked stage, the extra cast members, the heavier props until I met... the rope. This is an element we do not have on the road due to the depth of some of the touring venues.
At the top of the show, three monkeys open the storybook to begin the audience’s journey into Oz. What better way to start a Broadway blockbuster than to have a monkey descend a rope from what feels like eight stories high. Did I mention I have a debilitating fear of heights? Example: On a trip to Peru, I had to beg complete strangers to help me down Machu Picchu in my best 7th grade Spanish. Spoiler alert, it is almost as high as the rope at the Gershwin. I don’t think Wicked patrons could fully appreciate a monkey yelling from above them as they settle into their seats, “¡Ayudame por favor! ¡Quiero vivir!”
Christy Ney, one of our badass stage managers, patiently waited miles below me on the stage as I repeatedly did my fear ballet: mount the rope, picture death, dismount the rope, ask if there were ever any Chistery covers who decided against taking their life in their hands, REPEAT. Christy would call up, “Just take your time. Whatever you need.” It was no less than 15 minutes and six failed attempts to even get on the rope before it happened. Broadway called and I needed to get my booty down the rope. I did. It was painfully slow. We clocked my descent getting me down roughly in time to do "What Is This Feeling?" Christy told me it takes 20 times to create a habit, so every day we’d go and do 4-5 descents. I’ve been in the show a few weeks now and can proudly say that I confidently do the rope complete with upside-down monkey chicanery.
This whole experience has been a dream come true. I haven’t resolved my fear of heights but I have discovered my confidence on the rope and in this overwhelmingly supportive company. Even baby steps are still movement forward. Fears aside, it was a beautiful transition from the tour to Broadway. I also have a tremendous fear of sea monsters in case anyone is hiring for a show involving dark water...