Nov. 9 2016 11:24 AM

Kristen Martin returns to mid-Michigan with ‘Wicked’

Owosso native Kristen Martin plays Nessarose, the wheelchair-bound sister of the Wicked Witch of the West, in the touring production of “Wicked.” The musical opens at the Wharton Center tonight.
Courtesy Photo
For some, pursuing a career in performing arts seems like a long shot. But for Owosso native and Broadway actor Kristen Martin, there was no other option.

“It was always a part of my life,” she said, “And I never considered that it wouldn’t be.”

Martin returns to mid-Michigan this week with the touring production of “Wicked,” the self-proclaimed “untold true story of the witches of Oz,” which opens tonight at the Wharton Center. Her character, the wheelchair-bound Nessarose, is the sister of Elphaba, aka the Wicked Witch of the West.

While Martin, 30, already has several Broadway credits and national tours under her belt, performing in a wheelchair presented new challenges.

“There are three different chairs, and they’re not modern chairs that are easier to maneuver. They’re older and kind of fidgety,” she said. “And then on top of that, you’re singing and saying your lines and trying to get to the right spots on stage.”

But Martin’s difficulty with the wheelchairs actually created a sense of empathy for Nessarose.

“I’m a dancer, so I am used to emoting with my body. Being limited by being in the chair was frustrating to me; I felt like I couldn’t do enough,” she said. “Then I realized that that’s the character. Everything that I was feeling was what this character is feeling. So I took that and used it. I’ve really been learning a lot from it.”

Growing up in Owosso, Martin studied dance at the Bohaty School of Dance, where her mother taught ballet, and performed with the Owosso Community Players. After graduating from Owosso High School in 2004, she moved to New York and enrolled in the American Music and Dramatic Academy, a two-year performing arts conservatory that focuses on singing, acting and dancing.

“It helps orient you with the audition process and get your foot in the door,” she said. “That helped me get used to the city. It was a little overwhelming going from Owosso to Manhattan.”

Martin’s theater resume includes national tours with “A Chorus Line” and “Cats,” and she was an understudy for Broadway’s “Spider- Man: Turn Off the Dark.” While Broadway is her first love, she’s also looking to expand into other outlets.

“I feel very thankful to have the career I’ve had so far, but I’m definitely curious to do some TV and film and to explore that world,” she said. “It’s a nice break for your voice and your body after doing eight shows a week for so many years.”

Martin performed at the Wharton Center with “A Chorus Line” in 2010, but she describes “Wicked” as “this whole other beast of a show.”

“The following that comes with the show and the outpouring of love surrounding the show is something I’ve never experienced before,” she said. “So to bring something like this to Wharton, to be a part of it, is so overwhelming.”


“Wicked”

Nov. 9-27 (Call or see web for dates and show times)
Tickets start at $45
Wharton Center
750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing
(517) 432-2000, whartoncenter.com