What’s is like to work on Broadway? To have a lead role in a nationally-touring production that evvvvveryone has heard of? Helene Yorke (aka Glinda in the touring production of Wicked) tells us all about it. Fascinating stuff!
Can you tell us about your background?
My background was in ballet, actually. I started at the age of three, and discovered ten years later that it was stressing me out, but kept dancing because that ‘s the sort of thing that never really leaves you. I’m glad I didn’t give up because obviously it’s a huge asset to my life now.
My parents are two conservative Canadians both of whom are very bookish, so I kind of hurled myself into left field. However, they like to think they know everything about theatre and the “biz,” but that’s just cause they’re parents and parents know everything, right? They supported my quest very early on, and I was in choirs and acting classes in the summer. It wasn’t until college that I decided to major in musical theatre because of my passion for singing and dancing in addition to acting.
I don’t know! I think you sort of exit the womb this nuts – it is 100% a genetic mutation.
I was in ballet class three times a week from a very early age. From middle school on I was in choir twice a week, and in high school we would stay insane hours to rehearse drama festival scenes. I also went to the University of Michigan and got my degree in Musical Theatre, so that was a lot of class and a lot of practicing.How did the people in your life react when you told them that you wanted to do this professionally?
I think people in my life always knew I was going to do this, so there was never really a time when I announced it and they reacted. I have always felt supported by those around me, and my family has always been incredibly supportive, which I could not have done without.
I think it’s important when you do something in which you face so much rejection to surround yourself with those who lift you up and keep you believing in yourself.Can you tell us about the various roles that you’ve played?
I played a hodge podge of characters off-Broadway in a show called Walmartopia. It was an incredible experience. I was with some hilarious actors – observing and working beside them was such a pleasure. That was a show which was kept open by our very generous producer and we would often do it for an audience of 20-30 people.
Keeping yourself motivated and “with it” in a situation like that is incredibly difficult, but we had such a wonderful cast and we were really always there for each other. That experience was the perfect one for my first show out of college.
Then I went on to play Sharpay in High School Musical for Disney on tour. It was amazing working for such a huge company and touring the country. It was a great group of young people, many of whom were doing their first job. I also love playing the villain. There’s just something so fun about it.
I played a small role in an off-Broadway show called What’s That Smell – The Music of Jacob Sterling which meant working for the very prestigious and established Atlantic Theatre Company and David Pittu and Peter Bartlett, two of the best actors in New York City. Again: a wonderful environment in which to learn. Plus, the show was brilliant.
Then I played Marty in Grease on Broadway, which was incredible because the cast was a wonderful group, I loved the chance to dance again, the character is fun and a little slutty, and I was on Broadway! Walking through the stage door at the Brook Atkinson theatre never got old. It was a pleasure and an honor to join those ranks.
And then I was Glinda in Wicked, opening and originating the Second National Tour. It’s probably my favorite part to date. I loved exploring the journey she goes on during the course of that story, and playing opposite someone so closely.
It was an incredible experience also to lead our wonderful company and be a part of something so big. It is so rare to be in a show that always has a full house with a guaranteed standing ovation every night. People go nuts for that show, and it’s no wonder why. Again, it was an honor to join the ranks of all the Glindas who came before me.
How long did it take you to “make it”?
I still don’t think I’ve “made it.” There are certainly incredible markers: being in my first playbill, booking a lead on tour, my first Broadway show, Glinda; but I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished all that I’m meant to do. I think you “make it” when you’ve satiated that whole hunger, and I’m just not done yet.
I would be (and hopefully will one day) opening my cheese shop. I love cheese. I read books, I’ve taken a class, I love eating it. I love it.
In 10 years I see myself happy – with my career, with my cheese, with my man and maybe some babies.What advice would you give to others who want to get into the performing arts?
I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had, and that this business has been very good to me. I think everyone should focus on the things that make them feel bad ass, because where is anyone without that?
Are any of your trying to make a go of it in the performing arts? Any questions for Helene?