“It’s hard to be ‘the different one,'” says Jessica Vosk. “I’m the only girl on stage who’s got this green color all over me. I’m ridiculed on stage from the beginning to the end. To hear things like ‘freak’ and ‘get out of here, go crawl inside of your hole,’ or ‘We don’t want you here,’ is really hard every night.
Vosk stars as Elphaba — better known as the Wicked Witch of the West — in the national touring production of Wicked, which recently settled in to the Kennedy Center Opera House for a month-long run. The popular Stephen Schwartz musical, running on Broadway since 2003, upends The Wizard of Oz, telling the story of the Wicked Witch from a sympathetic point of view. It’s a smart, surprisingly adult musical that touches on themes of government corruption, activism, discrimination, and media manipulation in ways that L. Frank Baum could have never imagined for his denizens of Oz.
“You start this journey with this young girl, and she is wide-eyed and wants to learn just like everybody else does,” says the 33-year-old Vosk. “She’s smart and passionate and wants to learn. She’s dropped into this atmosphere where she doesn’t look like everybody else and is clearly being bullied. She tries to rise above all of that in act one. And things don’t go as expected…. Without being corny, it’s a story of defying the odds that were dealt to you that you can’t change.”
Vosk gives a thrilling, all-encompassing performance of emotional intensity. Her showstopping act one number, “Defying Gravity,” brings a rapt audience to its feet, cheering and whooping like few others in Kennedy Center history.
“I love singing Defying Gravity,” she says. “It’s such a cathartic song about coming into your power, whatever that power may be. That’s Elphaba’s moment of ‘Screw it, I can make a difference, and I’m going to use my power to do that.’ Also, let’s be honest, the fact that I get to fly during that song is extra badass.”
Wicked runs to Jan. 8 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are $99 to $359. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
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