3 Ways Olivia Valli Persisted in the Theatre Industry
Sentimental Men has just released their latest episode, which features Wicked tour star, Olivia Valli. The brilliant performer is currently playing Elphaba on the second national tour of the Broadway classic around the United States. This episode also features some discussion on the upcoming Wicked film starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Eriva, which I know we are all ready and waiting for!
Valli landed her first role as Elphaba's understudy in the second national tour of Wicked from 2016 to 2019, and in 2021 she captivated audiences as Vivian in the first national tour of Pretty Women. She then joined Jersey Boys Off-Broadway as Mary Delgado (which is particularly funny given that she is Frankie Valli's granddaughter. Crazy right?!)
Now, in 2023, Olivia is reprising her role as the lead in Wicked's second national tour — and how lucky are we to be able to follow this stellar beltress’ journey?
Quincy Brown and Kevin Bianchi, the hosts of the podcast, spoke with Olivia about a variety of topics, including how her involvement in youth school choir led to her discovering Wicked the musical for the first time, how her ex-boyfriend gave her paper plates as a birthday gift (huge red flag if I ever did see one), her BFA college experience, the audition/workshop process for Wicked, and so much more!
1. Follow your heart
When Valli was younger, she didn't quite identify as a "theatre" kid. If anything, she admitted, she was interested in sports and wasn't sure if she would always be passionate about theatre, let alone pursue it as a career. When it came time for her college application season, she chose to follow her heart and submitted a BFA application to one school. Yes, you read that correctly. ONE SINGULAR SCHOOL. Given that the majority of BFA applicants apply to over 20 schools, this is simply unheard of. Valli admitted that she had no idea how to audition and felt out of place. Contrary to her expectations, she was one of the 20 students accepted. She ended up dominating a theatre showcase during her senior year, which attracted the attention of numerous talent agents. She was given an opportunity to audition for an Elphaba cover as a result of this, and her life has never since been the same.
2. Perseverance is key
Olivia says that casting directors thought she was too young and inexperienced after her first Elphaba audition. "Let's give her time," they advised. Valli struggled to find work after that and performed as a wedding band singer. She felt heartbroken and ashamed because many people around her were booking roles and the industry felt extremely competitive. Despite a string of rejections and audition after audition, Valli kept the mindset that "every no leads to my bigger yes" and was eventually rewarded. She was called to cover Elphaba on the national tour of Wicked after yet another audition, which she described as "the biggest learning curve" of her life!
3. “Go touch the grass”
It took Valli a long time to realize that there is a life outside of Wicked. In other words, Olivia frequently felt suffocated by the show and her desire to advance and take on a bigger role. As she put it, her younger self needed to "go touch the grass" and remember that life will work itself out. Olivia had long wished to be promoted to standby Elphaba. Her initial plan was to start as an understudy, then advance to standby, and finally become the permanent Elphaba. She was disappointed when it didn't go exactly as planned. In retrospect, she stated that she needed to learn the lesson that everything happens at the right time. Patience in life helps to shape you, and everything happens for a reason. “Take the time to enjoy what you do,” as Olivia puts it!
Sentimental Men, presented by Theatrely, is an interview-based podcast ode to the women of musical theater, with previous guests including Jessica Vosk, Eden Espinosa, and Tony Award winners Beth Leavel and Stephanie J. Block. You can listen to and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts.