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Burns: The quiet Witch of the West

September 7, 2010

Published by Metro

On Mondays, Jackie Burns doesn’t talk. It’s her day off, and she needs the vocal break.

“It’s the only way I can sing the show eight times a week,” says Burns, who plays lead Elphaba in “Wicked.”

She doesn’t go out at night with the cast or drink, either: “Elphabas don’t get to have much of a life. I kind of live like a nun,” she says with a laugh.

Seems kind of boring for somebody who plays a character that some refer to as the Wicked Witch of the West.

“It’s totally worth it,” she attests.

Burns plays one of the most demanding roles in one of today’s most popular theatrical productions. Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, “Wicked” has won dozens of awards and broken box office records.

If they’ve seen “The Wizard of Oz,” audiences already know the emerald-skinned heroine’s fate. However, they’ll leave the theater with newfound sympathy for the future Wicked Witch.

“It’s so sad, she has a heart of gold and all she wants to do is help,” Burns says. “But she has the worst luck ever.”

Defying flattery

Burns doesn’t mind when fans sing along during the show — even if they can’t hit the notes so high that they defy gravity in “Defying Gravity.” The orchestra in front of the stage and the bright lights prevent her from hearing or seeing the audience anyway. Still, she appreciates the enthusiasm.“I love that they come in already loving the show. It makes our jobs easy.”

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