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Broadway Q&A: Riley Costello of ‘Wicked’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The show's new Boq talks recreating the show as a kid in his garage

Riley Costello currently stars as Boq in Wicked. The long-running hit musical opened on Broadway in 2003 and has been playing at the Gershwin Theatre ever since, celebrating its Sweet 16 this year. The show tells the story of two polar opposites who ultimately form a bond and become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. Boq is a munchkin completely smitten with Glinda. He is also the first munchkin to attend Shiz University. On Broadway, Costello has also appeared in 13, Bye Bye Birdie and Everyday Rapture. He also played Brad in NBC’s Hairspray Live!

Riley Costello as Boq in ‘Wicked’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Riley Costello as Boq in ‘Wicked’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Can you talk about when you learned you were cast as Boq in Wicked?
Riley Costello: I was about to sit down at one of my favorite restaurants with one of my best friends. And one of my other dear friends was serving that night. When my phone rang, it was my manager. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even call anyone to tell them until after dinner. So we sat there celebrating the whole time, knowing we were the only three people who had this information.

How did you first discover Wicked?
Through the cast recording. Family friends had seen the out-of-town tryout in San Francisco, and played us the CD in the car one day. I believe my Mom must have gotten it for us soon after. We sang these songs every day. 

I love that you used to recreate the Wicked set in your garage back when you were ten years old. What was it about Wicked that you adored so much?
RC: I’d love to say the beautiful message, or the incredible, universal themes and storytelling. But honestly, at the time, it was probably because the music was incredible, and had two fierce leads who belted out incredible power anthems. Though I guess there’s also something to be said for a ten-year-old boy who felt like an “other,” sometimes finding an outlet of expression through songs like “Defying Gravity.”

How elaborate did you make the shows you created in your garage? And was it just you or were others involved?
RC: Just me. Occasionally, a friend or two would come over and join, but mostly that garage was my sanctuary. Other productions I did were Fiddler On The Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Phantom of the Opera. I was all over the map. But Wicked was the most memorable. The set was pretty elaborate, considering my budget. I had some large wood flats that were walls, some industrial lights that I put school binder folders over as my light gels. I had a fog machine, a strobe light, karaoke tracks and, best of all, a cleverly rigged stepladder that allowed me to do “Defying Gravity.”

When did you know that you had a gift for singing? 
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing. It has always been a part of who I am. I still sometimes sing without knowing I’m doing it.

What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?
RC: I think it was The Phantom of the Opera. It was another one of my favorites, so my mom made sure to get tickets on our very first trip ever to New York. 

What do you love to do on your day off?
RC: My favorite thing to do, besides sleeping, is eat! On show days, it’s hard to set aside time to cook more than just for fuel. My boyfriend Joe and I love to cook, it’s one of our things. Anyone who has been to our dinner party knows this. We like to take advantage of Monday nights to cook something extravagant. Other than that, it’s dog walking, hanging at home, video games, movies – I’m a homebody. 

What qualities does Boq have that you adore?
RC: I absolutely love Boq. He is always trying to do the right thing. He is head over heels for Glinda, and will do whatever she says, just trying to make people happy by doing what it takes to be liked. He is one of the most earnest characters in the show. As the first Munchkin to attend Shiz University, he understands what it feels like to be different. And so, he sympathizes with Elphaba feeling like an outcast. 

Why do you say that Elphaba is your dream role?
RC: There isn’t a more powerhouse, badass role than the green girl. Everyone feels like they don’t belong sometimes. She is also a character with very strong opinions about doing what is right, and standing up in the face of adversity for a cause she believes in. I think that’s something we can all aspire to and connect with. And she’s got killer songs.

When did you first see Wicked on Broadway?
RC: I don’t remember the first time I saw it on Broadway. But my first apartment in the city was across the street from The Gershwin Theatre. So I used to play the lottery (to win tickets to see the show) all the time. I had seen it an embarrassing number of times. And the fact that my face is now on the side of the theater in the breezeway is still ridiculously special to me.


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