Christine Dwyer in full character as Elphaba in “Wicked.”
By Rich Fahey
If you want to see the real Christine Dwyer, don’t tune in when she’s on TV.
“Every time I’ve been on TV, I’ve been green,” she laughed, including her appearance as Elphaba performing “For Good” on the 2014 Tony Awards, where she met Idina Menzel, the actress who originated the role on Broadway.
Dwyer first fell in love with the stage after seeing a performance of “Cinderella” at the North Shore Music Theatre when she was just five. She has carved out her own solid professional career on the stage after graduating from Lynnfield High and the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford.
Dwyer struck gold almost immediately after graduating from college when she won the role of the activist/performance artist Maureen in a national tour of the iconic musical “Rent.”
She has also graced Broadway and theaters across the country in several stints since March 2010 as Elphaba, the latest Broadway stint ending this past March when her contract ended.
OK, we all want to know: How long does it take to put on and take off the green makeup?
“It takes about 20-25 minutes to apply green makeup to the face, chest, ears, hairline and hands.,” said Dwyer, who also wears a body suit when she plays the role.
The makeup was usually retouched at the beginning of the second act and took about 10 minutes to wash off. The ears and hairline were constantly the most problematic areas to keep clean.
“The left-over makeup always looked yellow,” she said.
Marybeth Abel, the production stage manager for “Wicked” on Broadway, said that Dwyer was ready when she came from the national tour to take over the role of Elphaba on Broadway.
“We knew she knew the show and was extremely talented, but we found her when she came to Broadway to be reliable and wonderfully warm and welcoming.” said Abel.
Abel said it isn’t easy to join a new company. Dwyer had to learn to react and play off new actors and actresses, and said that Dwyer handled the stress of the situation well.
“It’s a huge responsibility headlining a Broadway show,” said Abel. “A principal player has to understand the rigors and the challenge. You have to take care of yourself to be ready to perform every day and in the case of joining a new show, you have to be willing to change when events call for it. Maureen was a joy to work with.”
Abel said there is always a chance Dwyer could return to the role someday.
“She’s in that pool of actresses,” she said.
Dwyer also took the character of Elphaba to Hannover, Germany in April for the Hannover Messe, one of the world’s leading trade fairs for industrial technology. There were cultural representatives from different countries, and the U.S. representatives were “Wicked” and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, so Dwyer had a chance to perform for President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders.
She also recently finished work on the indie movie “200 Hours” in Austin, Texas.
And while she is waiting for the next thing to come along, there’s a mortgage to pay on a recently-purchased apartment in midtown Manhattan.
“A very small percentage of performers can support themselves entirely from their professional earnings and teaching,” she said. “Most do something else – catering, waitressing, maybe performing as a soloist with a symphony orchestra. There are other ways to make money if you’re OK with that.”
She has worked with aspiring singers and also works with actor and fiancé Matt DeAngelis in business coaching and preparing students thinking of a career on the stage. They both returned to the area recently: DeAngelis proposed to Dwyer in late August at the New England Aquarium.
DeAngelis is a native of Boxford and a graduate of Masconcomet Regional High. He appeared on Broadway and the West End of London in “Hair” and has done national tours of “Hair,” Once” and “American Idiot.” His parents now live in Lynn. Dwyer’s parents, Tom and Ann, still live in Lynnfield.
During the slack times, Dwyer not only does whatever she has to do to pay the rent, but is always working hard to keep her name and face out there.
“I’ve sung in concerts and benefits for no pay to do just that,” she said.
Social media and Facebook allow Dwyer to interact with her fans, and her Web site even includes a link for the avid devotees of “Wicked” who spawned a group of fans known as “Dwyer’s Flyers.”
Music-wise, Dwyer is a rocker at heart who plays the guitar and has been writing her own music for several years, and would like to put together an album someday.
Might she someday have enough material to put together her own cabaret act?
“That kind of scares me,” she said, while allowing it could happen at some point.
Writing her own music is not only a creative outlet but it also offers another opportunity to perform, and the writing is food for her soul when she’s not performing nightly.
“It’s hard to live in New York City and be a creative person and not be doing something creative,” she said.
One of the ironies of the stage – especially on Broadway – is that there is more security to being a member of the ensemble – where Dwyer began in “Wicked” – than being in a in principal role.
“The contracts for ensemble members tend to get renewed while those for principals don’t,” she said.
Like most actors, Dwyer has a “wish list” of dream roles she’d like to play some day, including Louise (Gypsy Rose Lee) in “Gypsy,” Viola in “Twelfth Night,” and Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”
She also dreams of creating a character from the ground up in a new show.
Dwyer said she offers younger actors and actresses who wish to try the stage some simple advice. “Be a hard worker and easy to work with,” she says. “Be nice to people, do favors when you can, and say yes to everything. That person you’re saying yes to might be close to the person casting that next show. And remember: You’re always auditioning for that next role.”
Photos: (top) Joan Marcus; head shot, Matthew Murphy.
Featured in the Fall 2016 edition
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