Garner’s Jeremy Woodard quit being upstaged by a bunch of dancing, singing, guitar-banging kids to start being upstaged by a broom-flying witch. Such is the life of a Broadway actor.
Woodard, a 1998 graduate of Garner Senior High, left an adult ensemble role in Broadway’s “School of Rock” to become the male lead in the national touring company of Wicked, Stephen Schwartz’s smash prequel to the beloved “Wizard of Oz.”
Fiyero is the love interest of Glinda, the so-called good witch, and of Elphaba, the green witch.
“It is a really good role for me,” Woodard said. “It feels really good to be in a more demanding role. I enjoyed “School of Rock” and really enjoyed the people, but I do a lot more in this show.”
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Woodard uses a lot of acting tools in the new role with dancing, comedy, tragedy and love. Fiyero and Elphaba also sing one of the loveliest songs in the show, “As Long As You Are Mine”
And by joining “Wicked” he is also a part of one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time. The touring show currently is playing to capacity crowds in the 3,100-seat Hobby Center in Houston. The show sells out essentially every night wherever it goes.
Woodard, like many audience members, was overwhelmed the first time he saw the show in New York. He returned to see it several times while Alli Mauzey, who is married to Garner native and good friend Collin Batten, was Glinda.
“As great as the show was, I wasn’t sure there was a place for me in it,” he said. “I had read for it (auditioning), but I wasn’t sure what I would bring to it. But at this point in my life, I can really relate to Fiyero.”
Mauzey, one of the most popular Elphabas, said Woodard will be a treat for audiences.
“Jeremy is perfect for the part of Fiyero and I’m so excited for him to get to play the part,” Mauzey said. “The ladies are going to love him just like Glinda and Elphaba do.”
Change on every stage
Woodard built his interpretation of the character around the transitions that Fiyero undergoes.
“He is not the same person at the end of the show that he was at the beginning,” Woodard said. “I think that I’m at the point in my career where things are changing, too.”
He is engaged to Broadway actress Cameron Adams. He thinks about his future differently. He isn’t the young upstart that took to the road in national tours of “Miss Saigon” and “Hairspray” soon after arriving in New York in January 2002 after graduating from East Carolina.
“This is going to be the longest that we’ve been apart since we started dating,” Woodard said. “We’ve talked about that. The good thing is that we’ll be fairly close to New York some of the time. And “Wicked” is so big that when we go to a new city it takes a while to set up so we’re off from Sunday night until Wednesday afternoon.”
Woodard, who rose to Broadway stardom in “Rock of Ages,” knows it is going to take a while to get used to being on the road again, and not just because he’ll live out of his suitcase for a while.
Mauzey said there are few differences in a show on the road or on Broadway from the audience’s perspective, but actors have to be more flexible on the road.
“I’ve played Glinda on Broadway, on tour, and in the closing company in San Francisco,” she said. “From an actor’s perspective, the biggest differences are what happens backstage. In every city there is a new layout and therefore more of an adjustment backstage than onstage. And some theaters make things more ideal than others.”
And a huge difference for actors on the road is that the cast and company of the show becomes your new world.
“I really like the people I’m working with,” Woodard said. “That’s really important on the road. If you are in a Broadway show, you do the show and go home. On the road, you are with the same people all of the time. I mean, all of the time. You’re in a new city every couple of weeks and these are the people you know.”
He knew some of the cast members before joining the company. He is established enough that members of the production team encouraged him to audition for Fiyero when it became available.
“It really is a small world,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
One example of that is that Woodard’s replacement in “School of Rock” is Garner’s John Arthur Greene.
“That is pretty amazing,” Woodard said. “Broadway jobs are so hard to get and to have one guy from Garner replace another guy from Garner is too much.”
Tim Stevens: firstname.lastname@example.org