‘Wicked’ native of Modesto CA debuts on Tonight Show

Broadway and Modesto native Lindsay Pearce made a strong comeback this week, capped by an appearance Friday on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”.

The Modesto Junior College alumnus has been cast for the lead role of Elphaba the “Wicked Witch of the West” in Tony’s award-winning musical “Bad”In early 2020. She took to her first Broadway stage on February 25 that year, painted in her character’s green skin. But then, just two weeks later, the Great White Way and truly the whole world closed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Broadway closed in March. On December 12, 2020, Pearce and the rest of the company were promised their roles upon his return. But the actress and, again, the world had no idea that it would take a year and a half – almost to the day – for the lights to come back on and the musical to return to the stage. Audiences returned to New York’s iconic Gershwin Theater on September 14 for the show’s grand reopening.

After starring in the hit musical’s first show earlier this week, Pearce posted a moving Instagram video thank the fans, the cast, the crew and the entire production of “Wicked”.

“What happened tonight was one of the most incredible experiences I have had the privilege to have,” she said, saying to herself “humbled” and “so full of gratitude and so Full of love”.

The return of “Wicked” was made even more special by a surprise appearance by Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth, who premiered the role of Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked” on the Gershwin stage in 2003.

Native Modesto sings for Jimmy Fallon, National Audience

Pearce ended his first week back on Broadway with his first appearance on “The Tonight Show”. She starred in the late night talk show with her co-star Ginna Claire Mason, who plays Glinda alongside her in the Broadway production.

The duo performed a medley of “Popular” and “The Wizard and I”, two hits from the production which won three Tony Awards, a Grammy and seven Drama Desk Awards.

The reopening of “Wicked” saw three other hit Broadway shows return that night: “Hamilton”, “The Lion King” and “Chicago”. The reimagining of the origin story of “Wizard of Oz” is the fifth longest-running production in Broadway history.

Lindsay Pearce - Tonight's Show 2.jpg
Lindsay Pearce as Elphaba and Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda from the Broadway musical “Wicked” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Friday September 17, 2021. Rosalind O’Connor NBC

When first cast as Elphaba, Pearce made the trip across the country from her Los Angeles-area home to live full-time in New York City. The singer and actress made her Modesto debut, performing on local stages since the age of 6 with Opera Modesto, Denair Gaslight Theater, Sonora’s Stage 3 Theater, Turlock Youth Performing Arts and Modesto Junior College.

In 2010, she won the inaugural Valley Talent Project (then called Valley’s Got Talent), which introduced her to fellow Modesto native and Emmy-winning Hollywood casting director Robert Ulrich. She was later cast on “The Glee Project,” a spin-off of the hit series reality show “Glee,” which led to a recurring appearance in the musical series.

She moved to Southern California to pursue her acting career, landing a guest spot on “Grey’s Anatomy” and a recurring role on the Freeform show “Recovery Road”.

She called on being cast as Elphaba for her first Broadway show “The Role of a Lifetime” ahead of her big debut in early 2020. But after the pandemic, she returned to the West Coast.

Modesto native Lindsay Pearce (in Elphaba costume) with her classmates during the curtain call for her opening night in the Broadway musical “Wicked” on February 25, 2020 in New York, NY. Lindsay Pearce Courtesy of Lindsay Pearce

At the start of last year’s pandemic, Pearce spoke to The Bee about shutting down the show and his hopeful return to the stage.

“I am very, very lucky and privileged to have a job to come back to,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever complain about this job again. I have a feeling in my heart that I was complaining about the difficulty (being on the show) before that happened. But I will never complain again. I miss this job so much.

Last month Pearce and the rest of the cast of “Wicked” returned and began full rehearsals on August 23 – some 529 days since the show’s last performance.

Videos posted to YouTube by fans of the reopening nighttime performance show the crowd – who were masked and had to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend – standing and clapping wildly as Pearce sings the signature song of Elphaba “Defying Gravity” as she soars high above the stage.

This story was originally published September 19, 2021 4:00 a.m.

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Marijke Rowland writes on new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has worked with The Modesto Bee since 1997 and covers a variety of topics including the arts and entertainment. His Business Beat column is broadcast several times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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