Former Actor Returns to Broadway 7 Years Later to Perform 'Wicked' Lead amid COVID Cast Shortage

Carla Stickler, now a software engineer living in Chicago, traveled to New York City to headline a Broadway performance of Wicked when the show needed someone to fill in for Elphaba

Carla Stickler
Photo: Carla Stickler/Instagram

A former actor traveled to Broadway to fill in for one of Wicked's lead roles over the weekend as the show faced a shortage of stars amid the ongoing COVID pandemic surge.

Carla Stickler shared on social media Monday that she performed as Elphaba in a recent showing of the Wizard of Oz–inspired musical — even though she now works as a software engineer based in Chicago.

"This past weekend I got the chance to perform Elphaba on Broadway after not having done it since I left the company full time in 2015. To say it was an incredible moment would be an understatement," she wrote, also sharing video from the curtain call.

"I am so overjoyed to have performed with this amazing cast and crew. They helped carry me thru the show last night, and without their energy, cheering me on, I wouldn't have been able to do it," added Stickler. "When I left the company full time, I was battling with a lot of injuries and health issues. Every time I've been able to step away and then pop back into this show having had space to breathe and process, I've been able to fully grasp the beauty and magic of getting to be a part of something so magical."

"Having the opportunity to perform her again after having left the biz is giving me the closure I have been missing. If I never performed again, I could rest easy knowing that something out of this world happened last night," she concluded. "And now if I could just stop buzzing and get a few more hours of sleep!!"

A fellow stage actor, Alexandra Silber, shared Stickler's story on Twitter as well, commending her for pulling off the return so many years later.

"Last week (in the midst of everything) Carla flew to NYC from her new home in Chicago, to answer a call from @WICKED_Musical on Broadway," wrote Silber. "Carla has recently pivoted away from showbiz and taken on a new career in coding. She has not played this role in *SEVEN. YEARS.* And kapow: with a performing itch to scratch and an industry in need, Carla DEFIED GRAVITY last night."

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"Some of us might not totally appreciate what a role like this entails—let alone not having done, rehearsed it, or even THOUGHT about it for SEVEN years. But Carla? Did it. On one of the biggest stages ON EARTH," she continued.

Silber added, "She will return to her life in Chicago with her amazing husband, perfect dog and kick ass coder job — but if she never performs in public again? She knows without a shadow of a doubt that THIS BOW was her last bow. As #Elphaba. On #BROADWAY."

"I'm proud of her accomplishment, but even more in awe of her courage, resilience, and sheer KICKASSERY," she said, adding, "Thank you for reminding me (and all of here) that sometimes miracles happen TO us, but sometimes, when we are scrappy WE HAPPEN to THEM. Everyone deserves a chance to fly."

Stickler also said she hopes her story shows young girls they can aspire to pursue both creative arts and the sciences: "At the end of all of this, I hope some little girl who loves coding/math/science but also loves music/theatre/art saw this story and thought to herself: I can do both, I can be so many things, the possibilities are endless!"

Several shows have canceled performances on Broadway due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, while others, like Waitress and Ain't Too Proud, have announced they're closing for good as a result.

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