Brad Oscar on the Challenges of Stepping Into a Long-Running Hit Like Wicked | Playbill

How Did I Get Here Brad Oscar on the Challenges of Stepping Into a Long-Running Hit Like Wicked

The Broadway favorite is back as the Wizard.

Brad Oscar Graphic by Vi Dang

Brad Oscar—a two-time Tony nominee for his performances as Franz Liebkind in The Producers and Nostradamus in Something Rotten!—recently joined the cast of the international hit musical Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.

The Broadway veteran stepped into the role of The Wizard March 5, the same evening the Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman musical welcomed a host of other artists to the Emerald City: Tony winner Donna McKechnie as Madame Morrible, Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba, Alexandra Socha as Glinda, and Natalie Ortega as Nessarose.

Oscar's Broadway credits also include Mrs. Doubtfire, Big Fish, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Addams Family, Spamalot, Jekyll & Hyde, and Aspects of Love, while his Off-Broadway work includes Little Shop of Horrors, Broadway Bounty Hunter, Sweeney Todd, and Forbidden Broadway. On screen he has been seen in Madam Secretary, Ghost Town, The Producers, Smash, Submissions Only, The Good Wife, and Law & Order.

In the interview below for the Playbill series How Did I Get Here—spotlighting not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—Oscar shares the unique demands of stepping into a long-running Broadway hit as well as the one stage role he would love to play.

Brad Oscar in Wicked Joan Marcus

Where did you train/study?
Brad Oscar: The first acting and vocal classes I ever took were at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, Maryland. They had an outstanding theatre department for kids from the ages of 10 to 16. I learned so much there with some terrific teachers at an early age, some of the very same things reintroduced to me when I then attended Boston University’s School for the Arts, where I graduated with a BFA.

Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor standout?
I’ve had many wonderful teachers along the way, but no question that my strongest mentor, teacher, and friend has been my first voice teacher, Ann Amenta. Not only did Ann instill a technique in me that still serves me today, but she was in the business as well, so I received much of her wisdom, perspective, and guidance as I was becoming the young performer who wanted to make this a profession. She has been there for the entire ride, and I am thrilled to say that we are still close and in touch to this very day.

What are the challenges/rewards of stepping into a role in a musical that is already running?
It certainly is a whole different process stepping into a role, especially in an iconic and long-running show. It is my job to fill the shell as it has been created, to tell the story in the way it’s being told, and then use all the parts of myself and my craft that allow me to do that. It can be tricky—it’s not as organic as creating a role, and the need or desire to “make it my own” can be dangerous. It will become my own because it’s me who is doing it, but you do often have to work from the outside in. It was a similar experience when I replaced as Uncle Fester in the second year of The Addams Family.

Do you have a favorite moment in the show for The Wizard?
I do love the confrontation scene with Elphaba in Act Two. It’s a high-stakes moment that leads beautifully into the song “Wonderful” and then fully reveals who this guy really is. And I have such a terrific scene partner in Mary Kate Morrissey!

Do you have a dream stage role or a previous role you would love to revisit?
There’s really only one role on my list—Albin in La Cage aux Folles.

Brad Oscar and Roger Bart in The Producers. Photo by Paul Kolnik

What made you decide to become an actor? Was there a particular production or performance that influenced your decision?
I was introduced to theatre at an early age. My parents loved going to the theatre and did some community theatre as well, and I grew up in Washington, D.C., which has always been a great theatre town. I remember seeing the pre-Broadway tryout of Raisin at Arena Stage, and seeing Ralph Carter, someone my age onstage, and somehow making the connection that I could do that. It was overwhelming. And from that moment on, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do.

What do you consider your big break?
I feel like I had two big breaks. The first was getting my first Broadway show, Aspects of Love, from an open chorus call. Getting into the pool, as t’were. But the bigger break was indeed my journey with The Producers—going from swing to Tony nominee within the course of three months was wild. And it certainly helped in my path forward!

Is there a person or people you most respect in your field and why?
The people I most respect and admire in the theatre are the true professionals who have respect for what they do and for other people. And I’m talking about everyone in the building. We know how many people it takes for a theatrical event to happen, from the front of house to the many, many people backstage. We are all there to make it happen; no one is more important than the next, and it’s always a stroke of luck to be in a show that runs, to have a lasting job in a difficult and random business. Respect that, and appreciate the responsibility that comes with it.

What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?
It took me a while to find out who I was in this profession, to embrace my own sense of comedy, style, and performance. To bring all of myself to the table without judgment. To acknowledge that there’s only one me, so let’s be the most and best me that I can be! So I always encourage young actors to be aware of that, and embrace what makes them special and unique.

Photos: Mary Kate Morrissey, Alexandra Socha, Donna McKechnie, More in Wicked on Broadway

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