When the National Tour of Wicked stops at The Segerstrom Center For The Arts, the four-week engagement will be a homecoming for several cast members, including ensemble member Robert Pendilla, who understudies the role of Boq. The Carson native somehow found time during his busy schedule to sit down for a StageSceneLA interview!

Can you talk a bit about growing up in Southern California and how you first got started in musical theater?
Growing up in Southern California was awesome! I was raised by an amazing and supportive family. I actually was introduced to Musical Theatre during my high school years! I attended the Los Angeles County High School For The Arts.  So you can say I was a late bloomer into the theater world!  However, once I started I couldn’t stop!

We probably crossed paths many times while you were at LACHSA, since I’ve been teaching for decades at Cal State L.A. in the very same buildings where the Arts High School students study! 

Oh my God! I miss King Hall!

I’ll be teaching there tomorrow morning, and I’ll be sure to think of you when I enter the building.  What would you say is your favorite role or production before joining the Wicked tour?
Wow that’s a good question!  Well my favorite role that I played was Pepper in Mamma Mia. It was just fun! Every night (and some afternoons) I was able to let loose and party on stage.

Robert (far left) and the cast of Mamma Mia

I saw you play Pepper in Pasadena in 2004 and I remember thinking what a great job you did! Any other shows that stand out for you?
I like to find something in every production that has me coming back for more night after night. So pretty much I have loved every piece and role that I have done!!!
You’ve done a couple of Hollywood Bowl musicals. Can you talk a bit about performing in My Fair Lady and Mame in front of such huge audiences?

Performing at the Hollywood Bowl was an amazing experience. Most artists dream of getting the chance and I lived it!  Getting to perform for such a large audience was exhilarating! We rehearsed for two weeks to do the show for one night. It was awesome!  Not to mention working with an amazing cast and crew, plus the added bonus of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra!

Wicked will be the fourth time I get to see you perform. The first two times were when you did Flower Drum Song at the Mark Taper Forum, the first time with Lea Salonga and the second time with Jennifer Paz, and then again a few years later in Mamma Mia.

I feel like you watched my career grow, seeing as I joined AEA doing Flower Drum Song! 
Robert backstage with Wicked castmates

And now here we are and you’re touring with Wicked and understudying the role of Boq. Have you been able to go on as the lovelorn Munchkin?  
Yes, I have made my debut as Boq and it was a long “yellow brick road” to get there. Before understudying the role I was a Universal Swing for the show.  So I was covering every U.S. company of wicked. After three years of Swinging the show, I was given the opportunity to have my own track in one company and understudy the role. I was more than happy with the opportunity!

How do you keep yourself ready to take center stage not knowing when (or if) you’ll get the call?

Luckily, we have understudy rehearsals every two weeks. This is where we can focus on our characters and make sure we know what we’re doing
What’s the high spot of the tour so far, and what makes it memorable to you?
The high point of tour life for me is getting to perform for thousands every night!  Not everyone has the chance to get to New York to see the show on Broadway…  So I love that we can bring the Green to them!  Just feeling the energy from the audience every night is why I do what I do!
To what do you attribute the phenomenal success of Wicked?

Wicked is relatable to everyone! It has a great book and score, the choreography is exciting and fun to watch and there are flying monkeys!  People always love the flying monkeys!  It also does what theater is supposed to do, it takes you on a journey for start to finish.  Basically it’s fun for the whole family!
What are your feelings about performing in a major National Tour so close to where you grew up?

I love it. I’m proud to come home and give back to the city that raised me. My family is all here and they get to see me onstage. Not to mention that the audiences are great out here!  So thanks everyone for supporting live theater!

One last question before we wrap up. What advice would you give to current LACHSA students planning a career in musical theater?

If I could give any advice to anyone who’s planning on having a career in musical theater, I would have to say…listen to your fellow actors, mentors and creative teams.  Listen when you’re onstage to what is being given to you from your scene partner.  Don’t be afraid to make a choice. Trust your instincts.  But most importantly … love what you do and believe in what you do. If you don’t, no one will believe you.

Thanks Robert, for the advice and for the great interview !  I can’t wait to see you in Wicked and to say Hi after the show!

Robert’s Wicked bio:
Broadway: Wicked (Swing).  National tours: Mamma Mia! (Pepper).  Off-B’way/NYC: Victor Woo (Henry). Regional: Flower Drum Song (original L.A. cast), My Fair Lady (Hollywood Bowl), Mame (Hollywood Bowl), Dorian (Buell Center). International: Aida (original German cast).  Thanks Mom, Dad, Bro, friends, and the “MINE!”

Click here to order tickets to see Wicked at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, March 9 through April 3.

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