Andy Kelso, a 2002 alumnus of UNC's theatre department, is playing Fiyero in the musical "Wicked," a revamping of L. Frank Baum's "Wizard of Oz," which runs through May 20 at the Buell Theatre in Denver. Kelso spoke with The Mirror Friday about his role in "Wicked" and his experience as a student at the University of Northern Colorado.
Mirror: How does it feel to be a lead role in "Wicked"?
Kelso: It feels great. To play a part in this show that is now such a cultural phenomenon is a huge honor.
Mirror: Because this musical is so well-known, do you feel any extra pressure to fit the "Fiyero" mold that is already established?
Kelso: A little bit, at first. You start to think of all the wonderful actors that have played the role and just hope you stack up so that you don't get booed off the stage. But after I really started working on the role, most of that went away. I just focused on playing the role as truthfully as possible and trusted that the people in charge would guide me in the right direction.
Mirror: What is your favorite part of being a professional performer?
Kelso: Making a living doing something I truly love.
Mirror: What is your favorite part of "Wicked"?
Kelso: My favorite part is the audience. People go crazy for this show, and it's such a thrill to hear their response every single night.
Mirror: What is your least favorite part?
Kelso: There's not much that I don't like. But if I had to choose something, it would have to be wearing (and) putting on the make-up.
Mirror: Do you have any advice to young performers on how to make it in such a competitive field?
Kelso: Study! Learn discipline and persistence. After school, there is no one who is going to motivate you to do your work with tests and/or grades. And this field requires a lot of hard work. If you can develop your willingness to learn the discipline to go after your goals - and the drive to never give up - something is bound to happen.
Mirror: I know that you played Sky in "Mamma Mia" on Broadway. How does the experience of performing on Broadway differ from that of traveling with a national tour?
Kelso: As for the actual time spent working, they are very similar. Both this tour and Broadway operate under the Equity Production contract, so most of the rules and daily show operations are the same. But on tour, you're always playing a different city (and) theater, which can be difficult to get used to. The audiences react differently, or the physical space sounds (and) feels different. But I'd say the biggest difference is the social aspect. In New York, everyone is home and the show is their job. On tour, your job is your life. You eat, sleep and work with these people, for better and for worse. Tour can be a lot of fun that way. But it can also make you miss the people, places and things back at home.
Mirror: How do you feel your time at the University of Northern Colorado has influenced your career?
Kelso: Immensely. I learned so much about what it is to be an actor at UNC. It really started my never-ending exploration of this art form. Some of the specific techniques I still use today, and some of them I don't. UNC gave me that toolbox to start collecting and pull out the right one when I need it.
Mirror: If you could play any role in any musical, what would you chose?
Kelso: I'd want to be the lead in a new show. I know that's a bit of a cop-out answer, but as a performer, I think it's really interesting to get the opportunity to create a role from the beginning.
Mirror: When did you start acting, singing and dancing?
Kelso: I was always a part of choirs and shows growing up in elementary school and in church. I never really got very interested in it until high school. I never got interested in it as a career until I got accepted to the program at UNC my sophomore year of college.
Mirror: Who inspired you and/or inspires you still to be a performer?
Kelso: The people I work with. I've always gotten a lot of inspiration from actors that I share the stage with. I love watching what they do each night and how their characters evolve. It's so inspiring to see people first-hand exploring their craft and giving their all - day in and day out. Especially with this cast, I am constantly blown away by the talent that surrounds me.