When Brittney Johnson took over the role of Glinda in Wicked on February 14, 2022, she thought she knew what to expect. She already had four other Broadway credits, so an eight-show week was nothing new. And she’d already been with Wicked for a couple of years, having started in the ensemble and spent a year as the Glinda standby.
What she didn’t see coming was the impact her history-making run in the role would have on audiences.
When Johnson stepped into the bubble last year, she became the first Black woman to play Wicked’s popular witch full-time. “It felt like a very significant moment,” Johnson tells Playbill, now a year later, as her time in Wicked came to a close.
That kind of significance can often come with a little pressure. “You want to do a great job. I never felt like people were rooting for my failure, but just the added eyes on it made it feel more pressure-filled. People were truly coming from all over the world to see me,” she says. “You want to do your best with an opportunity that you’ve been given.”
Due to this season’s Covid safety regulations in place, Johnson didn’t get a chance to meet fans at the stage door, but they still let her know they were there. Every day she gets messages on social media or people tag her in the photos they’ve taken, posing by her picture on the posters outside the theatre.
With great popularity, comes great responsibility, though. A responsibility that Johnson says she was happy to take on—and not just for young Black girls in the audience who can now see themselves in Oz. “I have the opportunity to show the powers-that-be in all kinds of capacities in our society that people are people, and we’re all capable. Let’s give everybody a shot and see what they can do,” Johnson urges.
The performer is a little coy when asked what’s next for her, promising that she has a few little irons in the fire while she’s taking a much-needed break from singing eight times a week. We do know that she’ll be playing the Queen of Hearts in a concert version of Mad Hatter The Musical April 16 at Montréal's Place des Arts Symphony Hall.
It’s been a whirlwind year for Johnson, and she’s been packing the special moments and memories into her iPhone, not wanting to forget a second. More than anything, though, she’s grateful. For the past year. For the journey. And for everyone who’s taken it with her.
And if she does start to miss that honey-blonde wig, “maybe I’ll get a little balayage,” she says with a laugh.