When Shoshana Bean put on the green greasepaint to become Elphaba in the Broadway musical "Wicked," she had a built-in fan base — theatergoers who loved the character and the show.
Parlaying her theater success into a singing career means finding new ways to reach her fans, says Bean, but she has found social media to be invaluable.
"Thank God for YouTube and Facebook," she said in a recent phone call from her Los Angeles home. "As an independent artist, it's all I've got. It's the reason I can be as successful as I am."
Bean will be the headliner for the closing weekend of the 11th Orlando Cabaret Festival, which runs through Sunday, May 12. She'll perform a show titled "AbSOULutely," featuring the R&B music from her latest album, "O'Farrell Street."
She's looking forward to sharing her music with cabaret fans at the festival, presented by Mad Cow Theatre.
"They're the first theater company that's given me the opportunity to do this," said Bean, 35. "I'm really grateful to them for letting me have a foot in both worlds."
Bean will always have a place in the theater world, thanks to the fierce devotion of "Wicked" fans.
"It's awesome to see the loyalty of those people; I still see people who I remember from the show," she said. "These are people who have stuck around."
Not that taking on the role of Elphaba — Oz's future Wicked Witch of the West who belts the anthem "Defying Gravity" — wasn't intimidating back in 2005. For one thing, Bean was replacing Idina Menzel, the super-popular Tony-winning originator of the role.
"It was terrifying," Bean said. "She had so many fans, it was too much to take on. It was pressure enough… I was in denial about it."
She played the part for a year, and later spent a few months headlining the show's first national tour before focusing on her music. Does she miss Broadway?
"I miss the community, I miss having that family" she said. "I don't miss the schedule. The freedom of what I do now is incredible."
Of course, that has some drawbacks: "I'm in charge of my career now. When things go wrong, I can only look at myself."
Bean's cabaret will mix soulful classics from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Otis Redding with her original songs. R&B has a special place in her heart.
"I was raised on a lot of it," she said. "It's like a coming home for me. R&B and sould music has always been my most favorite music to sing, and to listen to. I really wanted to honor it."
She hopes the audience will enjoy hearing old favorites — but also be open to her new works.
"I'm an audience member, too. If I'm introduced to something new, I like be introduced through things I'm already comfortable with," she said. "It's why everyone wants me to sing 'Defying Gravity.' They know it and love it. But there are Aretha Franklin songs they'll love, too."
• What: Performing 'AbSOULutely' at Orlando Cabaret Festival, which features multiple acts and runs through May 12
• When: 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 10-11
• Where: Mad Cow Theatre, 54 W. Church St., Orlando
• Tickets: $35; $45 for premium seating
• Call: 407-297-8788
• Online: OrlandoCabaret.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun