Milton Grad stars in Wicked on Broadway | arts and entertainment
MILTON, Georgia – Milton High School graduate McKenzie Kurtz has fulfilled a childhood dream when she begins her career as Glinda in the award-winning musical Wicked.
Kurtz debuted in the role on February 14 at the Gershwin Theater on Broadway as the musical enters its 20th year.
“I’ve dreamed of being on this show, specifically playing Glinda, since I first saw her when I was 9,” Kurtz said.
Seeing this performance years ago was part of what prompted Kurtz to pursue musical theater. Few shows have run as long as Wicked.
“I remember thinking, ‘Please leave this show there if I make it to New York,’ and of course I did because it’s one of the craziest and most amazing shows of all time,” Kurtz said.
The musical Wicked is the fifth longest-running show in Broadway history and has won over 100 international awards, including a Grammy Award and three Tony Awards.
The role is a dream come true for Kurtz, who made his Broadway debut in February 2020 as Anna in the Tony-nominated theatrical adaptation of the 2013 Disney film Frozen.
Kurtz only performed at the St. James Theater for about a month before COVID-19 shut down Broadway. The theater star needed to move home to Milton and reconnect with her roots. It was tough at first, but Kurtz carries the experience with him.
“Coming back to New York, I feel like the time I spent in Georgia, especially with my family, was so precious, and I carry all of that love and support inside me,” Kurtz said.
The actress spent her time at home acting in theaters in Atlanta, such as the Alliance Theater production of the 1983 musical adaptation of the film Trading Places.
Kurtz said she was fortunate to grow up in Georgia, with strong support from her friends, family, and the theater community.
“I have so many opportunities in the Milton theater program,” Kurtz said.
As part of Milton High School’s theater program, the actress won two Shuler Awards honoring the Georgia high school’s theater. Kurtz won Best Actress for Milton’s 2015 production of “Mary Poppins” and Best Actress for 2012 in the program’s “Spamalot” production. She was also nominated for Best Actress in 2011 and 2014.
Kurtz also appeared at the Jimmy Awards, a national competition known as “The Tonys for Teenagers.”
With several awards, Kurtz received a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University’s pre-college program and later attended the University of Michigan to study musical theater.
“My time at Milton High School was absolutely pivotal in getting me to where I am today,” Kurtz said.
In her second Broadway role, Kurtz is focused on making the iconic role of Glinda her own. Kurtz said after she was cast, people asked if she’d watched bootlegs from other performances to find out how she portrayed famous songs like “Popular.”
“I was really trying not to and just trying to find my own parts, my own feeling,” Kurtz said.
The show’s creative team welcomed her approach, and Kurtz said she can now take “creative liberties and comedic liberties” to add something new to each show.
While the actress admits she likes to draw on Glinda’s previous performances, she often draws on her time as Anna on Frozen for inspiration instead.
“Frozen” revolves around two sisters, Anna and Elsa, and the complicated dynamics of their relationship. “Wicked” focuses on a pair of unlikely best friends, Glinda and Elphaba – characters from the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
“They both focus on that relationship between two women and that relationship is evolving,” Kurtz said. “I think I brought my experience from ‘Frozen’ to this role because it’s almost like a sister relationship.”
The actress said she’s also pulling from her own relationship with her sister to portray the dynamic between Glinda and Elphaba.
Kurtz already has her next dream in mind: a role going to Broadway.
“There’s nothing like this process of helping create a role and create a show,” Kurtz said. “That would be something I’d really like to do next.”