Sunday, October 26, 2014

OHS grad bewitched by ‘Wicked’ weekend

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 10/30/2013

Jennifer Birzer’s heart was beating fast when she got a text and voicemail alerting her she was picked for a walk-on role in the Broadway production of “Wicked.”

The messages came at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 24 — two days before the musical, which is in its 10-year anniversary tour, would be performed at Kansas City’s Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St., Kansas City, Mo. Birzer’s mother, Betty Birzer, had purchased five charity raffle tickets Oct. 19 when the family saw “Wicked” at Music Hall in Kansas City, Mo., and out of about 500 tickets, Jennifer Birzer’s name was picked to win the one-time, walk-on role.

Jennifer Birzer’s heart was beating fast when she got a text and voicemail alerting her she was picked for a walk-on role in the Broadway production of “Wicked.”

The messages came at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 24 — two days before the musical, which is in its 10-year anniversary tour, would be performed at Kansas City’s Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St., Kansas City, Mo. Birzer’s mother, Betty Birzer, had purchased five charity raffle tickets Oct. 19 when the family saw “Wicked” at Music Hall in Kansas City, Mo., and out of about 500 tickets, Jennifer Birzer’s name was picked to win the one-time, walk-on role.

“Ryan [Jackson, actor in “Wicked”] texted me and said congratulations, and I called Mom and was really, really excited.”

 Birzer said. “My heart was pounding. I asked [Ryan], ‘Is this real?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s real. You won.’”

Jackson wasn’t lying. Birzer, an Ottawa High School graduate and former theater student, was required to show up an hour early to the matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday to get into costume and meet the cast.

“I got to meet pretty much everybody,” Birzer said. “They talked to me and said congratulations and things like that. Glinda [played by Hayley Podschun] is from Kansas City. We actually had been part of the same theater group Musical Theatre for Young People of Kansas City, so we talked about that and bonded. I met Elphaba [played by Jennifer DiNoia] when she was getting her make-up on, and she was really cool.”

The afternoon didn’t end with just meeting the cast. She made three appearances on stage in front of what Betty Birzer said was a sellout crowd at Music Hall. The venue, located inside Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, has a seating capacity of 2,363 people, according to VisitKc.com. Jennifer Birzer said it was the largest audience she had ever seen from the view on stage.

“I am actually surprised I wasn’t as nervous,” Birzer said. “It was really exciting. The first time I walked across stage in the train station scene, my heart was pounding a little bit, but other than that it wasn’t too bad.”

Birzer, who is scheduled to graduate in May from Kansas State University with a degree in fashion marketing, had theater experience at OHS and performed previously in a musical when she studied abroad in England, she said. While she hopes to work in fashion upon graduation, her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity didn’t come without a reminder.

“I am really into sustainable, eco-friendly fashion right now, but having this experience did remind me how much I love theater, especially musical theater,” she said.

Betty Birzer, Ottawa, said she was happy her daughter could cross the big stage performance off her bucket list.

“She said she wanted to do ‘Wicked’ sometime,” Birzer said. “Never would she have thought she would’ve been on a big stage with a sold-out crowd in Kansas City.”

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