Ginna Claire and I met for a cappuccino and cold brew at Ground Central, located in the heart of midtown, adjacent to the Gershwin. It was cozy and intimate yet buzzing with fellow artists and collaborators . Broadway’s current Glinda (Wicked) with bouncy blonde hair and twinkling warm heart may just be my new favorite person. With her instant welcoming presence and Nashville, a summer at Post Playhouse and both being married in common, I felt like we’d known each other for years. GC (a fellow double namer) and I talked about how she grew up on the classics, tour life + how to stay grounded + find the familiar, how she told her parents at fourteen she would play Glinda one day, and the luxury she feels it is to be performing on Broadway and getting to go home to her husband each night.
Drink of Choice: Cappuccino
AF: We have Ginna Claire on the blog! We are sitting very close. She’s gotta save the voice because she’s got a show tonight!
GC: Yes – cheers!
AF: Cheers, cheers, cheers. I’m glad that you’re a cheers person too.
GC: Any reason to celebrate…
AF: Always. So Ginna Claire…what is your coffee drink of choice?
GC: Cappuccino. I tried to drink black coffee for a long time and I didn’t really like it unless I added a bunch of milk and sugar and then I moved to a cappuccino because I was trying to eliminate sugar. I did Whole30…you know. What’s nice about the cappuccino is that you still get the espresso but the milk takes away the harshness of it. I will say though, I’ve graduated and I do drink black coffee now. It just took some getting used to!
AF: Amazing. So tell us your backstory…
GC: Well, I’m from just south of Nashville in Brentwood. I was raised on the musical theatre classics. The movies we watched in the Mason household were Cats, Annie, Guys & Dolls, and Singin’ in the Rain and the first soundtracks I owned after Amy Grant were Annie, My Fair Lady, and Annie Get Your Gun. Some of my earliest memories of loving musical theatre were before Google and I remember getting white copy paper and writing out the lyrics to “Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” because I must have thought that would serve me well. “I’m quick on the trigger with targets not much bigger than the pin point, I’m number one.” I did my first school show in first grade, auditioned for my first community theatre show in third grade and then got involved with Star Bright Children’s Theatre. My first community theatre show was Grease… you know, that show with lots of moral values. It was ages eight to eighteen so I was definitely in the ensemble. In fourth grade I saw my first Broadway show, which was Les Miserables, and I realized people do this for a living. In fifth grade I started doing more acting and drama camps, voice lessons, and dance classes. In seventh grade I saw Wicked when it first opened. I told my parents I was going to be Glinda on Broadway during intermission.
AF: You manifested that!!!!
GC: I sat in the fourth row and never really looked back after that… And then you start doing the college hunt. Freshman year of high school I was determined to go to NYU because I wanted to be in New York. For Christmas that year I only asked for NYU apparel… I didn’t even end up auditioning there, which is hilarious, but Elon was my first college audition and I fell head over heels in love with the campus and the faculty and their student life and I realized New York wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted that complete college experience, and I loved that Elon was a liberal arts university. I think that well-rounded people make well-rounded performers so…
AF: Yes, cheers to that!
GC: Cheers! So I went to Elon for four years under the leadership and guidance of my dream woman, Cathy McNeela, who was the head of the program and my voice teacher. I worked professionally every summer. I can’t believe Annabelle and I missed each other by one summer at Post Playhouse!
AF: That would have been the summer of dreams!
GC: I also worked at Flat Rock Playhouse and I guess that summer of my freshman year was my summer in Ohio at the University of Findlay and that was the summer I met my husband! That’s not necessarily a professional thing to point out but it was definitely an important life thing.
AF: That’s a milestone!
GC: He is my friend from college’s big brother.
AF: Had she ever talked about him?
GC: I didn’t know he existed! So to all the ladies out there…meet your dream sister in law first and then meet her brother!
AF: That is so awesome!
GC: Yes! So I got an agent through Elon. We bring managers and agents and casting directors to the school individually, so you get like ten chances! I came to New York with an agent and my first audition was actually for Wicked. It was to understudy Glinda on tour. I didn’t get it but this other girl got it and left her principal track in another show to be the understudy track of Glinda in the tour of Wicked so then the next thing I auditioned for was to replace her. That’s how I got the national tour of Flashdance the Musical.
AF: That’s so fun!
GC: Yes that was great, I did that for nine months, got my card… I was EMC before that from Flat Rock. I toured the country for nine months and near the end of that tour I started auditioning for Newsies.
AF: You’ve done so much touring! Welcome to New York.
GC: Soooo much touring… just interview my husband about that! While we were in rehearsals for Newsies the director Jeff Calhoun asked me to be part of another reading he was doing which was Duck Commander Musical.
AF: Is that still in development?
GC: Well I did the reading, and then a few months into Newsies they asked me to audition for the show because they were going to put it up in Vegas. So I sent in a self-tape like you do from your various hotel rooms and I got the part! I left Newsies to go do Duck Commander Musical. We rehearsed in New York and ran at the Rio hotel in Vegas. I kind of fell in love with Vegas!
AF: Really? I’ve never been!
GC: Oh my gosh! We have to go!
GC: Cheers! After Duck Commander Musical I had kind of been working consistently since school and then all of a sudden there was this lull…. Which was crazy-making. I think I auditioned for twenty shows during a five-month period. I got a few callbacks but nothing I was seriously interested in.
AF: It’s heartbreaking…
GC: Yes but then I got Wicked…!
AF: That is amazing. That goes to show how life works.
GC: What I forgot to tell you though is that while I was on Flashdance I sent in a video for Wicked and didn’t get a callback or anything. So this was my third time auditioning for it and then I didn’t get it, and then the girl they wanted couldn’t do it anymore, and I was in Nashville at the time visiting family. I was on the way to a dentist appointment and get a call from my agent and they’re like, “We need you on a Skype call in an hour with the music director.” So I cancel my appointment, go home, put a dress on, and am in my parents’ office singing “No One Mourns the Wicked” a cappella via Skype. I flew back from Nashville to audition for them one more time. Just a note for you and for anyone else who auditions for Wicked know the music backwards and forwards, because they had me sight-read something that wasn’t even in the audition packet… and they filmed me in the audition room doing something cold to send to the director. It was “Thank Goodness,” which is so fun to sing along to, but the counts are actually so difficult and specific. So just learn it now. But I got it! So I was the standby on Broadway for sixteen months. I went on twenty-six times so for five hundred shows. I mostly hung out backstage, working on my tax audits, making lots of new friends, drinking lots of coffee, and then I re-auditioned to go on tour as the role. That was my first time singing “Popular” for Stephen Schwartz. I got the tour, left a few weeks later and toured for twenty months as the role, which was fabulous. I was sad to go, which means it was a very good experience. My husband came to visit every week, which was amazing. And then they offered me the role on Broadway.
AF: So you didn’t have to re-audition… thank goodness!
GC: When I was on the road the whole creative team came out multiple times.
AF: They were like, “I guess she can do this…”
GC: From the time that I got the role I heard that they knew for ten months before they told me!
AF: Gotta keep you on your toes!
GC: I was just waiting and wondering if I’d ever get to do the role again… so it’s so amazing to have such a full circle moment. It’s just kind of terrifying until you sign the dotted line. All the way up until I was coming down in the bubble I couldn’t believe it.
AF: I feel like you really paid your Glinda dues!
GC: Doing the role on the road helped me learn how to take care of my body, voice, and figure out what I needed to do to sustain eight shows WHILE traveling! That was the hardest part. So now being back here, aside from the New Jersey transit, it feels like a total luxury because I have the joy of doing this dream job but at night I get to go home to my bed, my pillows, my husband, my fridge with my groceries, my gym, all the things that you are searching for in terms of familiarity on the road… now I have my home church, gym, and all the things that make up my home. We’re entering our third week now at Wicked and it’s sweet too because Jessica Vosk is the current Elphaba and we played opposite each other on tour for six months so it feels good coming back and doing it with her.
AF: So I always ask what is a high and what is a low thus far?
GC: It’s funny because people always say fall in love with auditioning; it’s your job! But I haven’t gotten there… and I don’t love auditioning. I am aware that it is very much a necessity of the career path but it’s something I don’t look forward to. It’s something you can get out of practice with. I think it’s most important to get into the room and be a full person. It’s really easy to be robotic and be what you think they want you to be when in reality they just want you to be a human. I love that the musical theatre world is so small so be kind to everyone. That would be my word of advice. Not for the sake of enhancing your career but for the sake of being a good person.
AF: It’s as simple as that.
GC: I loved being on the Newsies tour and so many of those people are my family. I made amazing relationships but at that point in my life I had basically been touring for over a year and I was still a newlywed and I remember on Newsies feeling really sad because I missed my husband and doing long distance at that point for four years was wearing me thin. That was definitely a low. My goal on the Wicked tour was to never stay in a hotel so I managed to stay in Airbnbs and with friends… I just needed a kitchen! A kitchen feels like home to me. Those relationships and friends were really special. A high was when I had my first planned Glinda performance I had about one hundred fifty people who came and they were all wearing pink boas. And then a couple weeks ago when I debuted as the role, having friends and family, and all my nearest and dearest and a post show toast at Azalea was amazing.
AF: I need to come see you!
GC: I did the role on tour with Mary Kate Morrisey for over a year and she is a sister, she is family, she is a forever person to me. There is something so bonding about these roles. This show specifically has the great music and the costumes and the big beautiful sets but I love that it’s this beautiful story of redemption and friendship. It’s a story I feel really proud to share.
AF: So what does the future hold?
GC: Probably a date with you at Vanguard with a large bottle of rosé! That’s definitely in the future.
F: Cheers to THAT.
GC: My husband and I put an offer down on a house so we’re waiting to hear back about that. It’s a new dream to put down roots in a community we really love and it’s exciting to think about our life there! My husband just changed careers last year so I’m excited for him. Other than that… good friends, good food, good wine… hopefully!
AF: Well thank you for meeting with me and sharing your heart.