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Colorado native Andy Kelso on returning to town and starring in Wicked

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Denver is no stranger to Wicked. The Broadway show has toured through here three times before, and April 11 marked the start of a fourth run in this city. Arguably, no one can celebrate the show's return more than lead actor Andy Kelso, who plays the role of Fiyero, the hedonistic prince who becomes the third point in a love triangle with the two leading ladies. Kelso is a Colorado native, from right here in Aurora.

Kelso went to Eagle Crest High School and earned his B.A. in Theatre from University of Northern Colorado. He's been in New York for nine years, working as an actor, singer, and songwriter, and is now getting the chance to show how far he's come on the same stage he used to watch as a kid. Westword caught up with Kelso at the stage door and over email to get his perspective on playing Fiyero, coming back to the Mile High, and being a part of a touring Broadway production.

What's the best thing about working on this show?

The audiences love it.  It's so satisfying to be a part of a show that people go crazy for and hearing their reaction during the show every night is definitely the best thing.

How do you stay sane when touring for such a huge production is so much work?

Well, it helps that while it is a lot of work, it's a lot of work that I love doing.  That alone keeps me pretty sane.  Besides that, I make sure to keep in touch with my friends and family and take advantage of the little down time that I have in each city.  I'll do some research and see the things worth seeing, and check out the hot restaurants and bars.  I also travel with my guitar and some golf clubs, which are both pretty good stress relievers.

Since certainly every production becomes a sort of community, what does it mean to you to be a part of that?

It's one of the things I love the most about theater.  Especially with a tour, these people become a sort of family.  They see you at your best and at your worst.  It's super important to develop these relationships not only because they're such a big part of your off-stage life, but because of the experiences you go through each day on stage.

How do you identify with Fiyero?

Playing Fiyero is a blast because he's this care-free, privileged prince who ends up really changing and seeing the world differently throughout the show.  A big part of Fiyero is having a good time, shaking things up a bit, and making the most out of any situation. It's really fun to play every night.

What do you want to do for the audience, or give them?

An amazing theater experience each and every performance.  And with the story and music in this show, it's not very hard to do.

What was it like to audition for Wicked?

My audition process was fairly quick.  I went in about four times all within one week...just before Christmas.  I had been seen for the role before, but it was over a year and a half ago and I never heard anything, so I just thought they didn't like me.   How did you feel landing Fiyero?

Absolutely shocked.  I felt like I sucked at my final audition and was just hoping I hadn't ruined my chances of being seen again for the show.  Plus-my final audition was a week or two before Christmas and I didn't hear anything until January 3rd.  By that point, I had let go of hearing anything, so when I got the phone call, I couldn't believe it.     What's it like being back in your home state to play this lead role in a Broadway production?

It's incredible.  I already have heard from old high school and childhood friends who are coming to see the show and have reached out to say congratulations.  It's sure to be a busy six weeks with trying to see everyone, do everything, and perform the show eight times a week, but I can't wait.  The Buell is where I first saw my big 'Broadway' shows, so to play the theater is a dream come true.   Is it a little bit of a culture shock?

No, not really, because I lived here before and I come back sometimes. But going to New York for the first time definitely was a huge culture shock.

Is it good to be back for a little while?

Yes. And the timing is great. I love springtime in Colorado. It's my birthday in about two weeks, and my sister is having a baby that's due while I'm here. It will be great to participate in those family things that you miss as an actor on tour or living in another city. I'm a 30s something dude living in his parent's basement for the next six weeks and I'm excited about it. Plus, I haven't spent much time living as an adult in this city, so it will be great to check out all the hot spots that have sprung up since I've been gone for the past nine years. Now if I could just get re-acclimated to this whole altitude thing.

If you want to see Kelso playing Fiyero in Wicked, along with all of the production's other colorful reimagined characters, you can get tickets at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts website; it will run through May 20 at the Buell Theatre, and tickets start at $35. You can also catch them at the Wicked Rocky Horror Show on April 23 at the Ogden; tickets for that are $40 and benefit the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and Project Angel Heart charities.

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