About a year and a half ago, I found a new friend. Through the wonders of the internet and mutual acquaintances, I ended up having a cocktail with one of the cast members of the National Touring production of Wicked. Merideth Kaye Clark, who is the standby for the lead role Elphaba, also happens to be an original singer-songwriter type who was looking to put together a show in Louisville during the run of Wicked. Friend-who-cooks-Pancakes and I set up a show for her, which was filled with Louisville friends and also half of the cast of Wicked -- a funny little mix of folks.
If you're wondering what a standby is, it's sort of like an understudy, but a bit more coveted of a position. The standby is basically always backstage, just in case the main actor isn't up to performing the role that night. In a role as huge as Elphaba, you've got to have a solid backup ready. My voice gets tired just thinking of doing one performance, but eight a week seems impossible. So Merideth has performed the role oodles of times, and she even has her own set of costumes tailored just for her.
She's back in Louisville for a short while, and before I go further, please make a note in your calendar right now to go to the Monkey Wrench on Sunday night at 10:00 to hear her sing. Clearly she's got a great voice, but on Sunday, we'll get a chance to hear songs from her upcoming album. I imagine with the resume she's got, she'll be playing much bigger venues than the Monkey Wrench in years to come.
The big news she's recently announced is that, after two and a half years on the road, playing Elphaba over 100 times in over 30 cities, Merideth has decided to leave the cast and head home to New York to finish her new CD. Some people probably think she's nuts to leave such an awesome role behind her, but I actually think she's even more awesome to do just that.
I remember when I left my producer job at CBS News in NYC, then started playing music around Louisville, loads of people thought I was crazy. But it worked out okay in the end. Sometimes you just need to make your own creativity, even if you've already got a fun job. And I'm sure Merideth will find that pursuing her own music, despite the challenges of not having a tour bus and booking agent, will satiate her artistic needs more than sitting backstage and waiting to be painted green -- my words, not hers.
Merideth and I had lunch today, and I lost track of time while we talked and laughed and had a merry old time. She's a super-smart lady (she even has a degree in neuroscience or something from Emory) and I love an independent woman who knows what she wants. I'll be at her show on Sunday at the Monkey Wrench, 10:00 (it has to be late because it's got to be after Wicked), wishing her the best of luck in her blossoming career. See you there!