Wicked’s John Dossett and Michele Pawk on Life in the Theater, and Life Beyond It

Article Courtesy of BroadWorld.com by Hayley Levitt • Oct 28, 2023

John Dossett and Michele Pawk don’t wear their resumes on their sleeves—or their décor. The spouses of nearly 20 years have over 30 Broadway credits and a Tony Award between them. But the home they share with their young-adult son Jack (also a rising performer) in South Orange, New Jersey tells a different story.

The Tony (Pawk’s for Carol Burnett’s semi-autobiographical play Hollywood Arms) sits in a space also occupied by Jack’s baseball trophies, a foul ball Pawk once caught at Wrigley Field, and a Frank Wood snowglobe (Wood starred alongside Pawk in Hollywood Arms). They’ve collected their show posters throughout the years but have no plans to put them on display. “Maybe Broadway Cares,” Pawk says suggesting a mass donation to the charity. “Broadway Cares,” Dossett agrees.

Broadway.com Editor-in-Chief Paul Wontorek got a peek inside their suburban haven for a special Wicked-themed episode of The Broadway Show. The blockbuster musical is the latest chapter in both of their extensive and varied careers—and it befits their own artistic longevity that their stint in Oz overlaps with the production’s landmark 20th anniversary.

"We were driving home the other night and we were like, ‘I'm honored. Aren't you honored?'" –Michele Pawk

Pawk became Broadway’s new Madame Morrible in December 2022 and Dossett joined her at the Gershwin Theatre in March 2023 as The Wizard. “We were driving home the other night and we were like, ‘I'm honored. Aren't you honored?’” Pawk relates from the chatter of their shared commute. “It's incredible that we're part of the 20th anniversary season,” adds Dossett. “It's really special.”

Michele Pawk in Wicked (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Pawk and Dossett met while working together in the Michael John LaChiusa musical Hello Again, which opened at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in 1993. Based on the 1897 play La Ronde, the show traverses the 20th century to trace the love affairs that unfold among 10 characters. Thanks to the intuitions of director Graciela Daniele, Pawk and Dossett—as The Actress and The Senator—found themselves paired together.

“I loved working with her,” Dossett says, referring to Daniele, “but we didn't have the relationship where I'd call her or she'd called me. She called me once, and only once, and it was after I was cast,” he notes. “She said, ‘John, I found the woman to play The Actress…You're going to love her.’”

Today, the pair regard Daniele as their “fairy godmother,” though they’re the ones who have done the work it takes to make a showmance last. “When our son was born, I considered myself a father first, a husband second, and an actor third,” Dossett explains. Pawk confirms, “[Family] always came first in the midst of choosing projects and a career. It was always, ‘OK, I was out of town, I can't be out of town again. Let's stay together.” “And she turned down some huge things,” adds Dossett with a mix of respect and pride.

It’s plain to see that the reverence goes both ways as each takes a turn to kvell over the other: “She was incredible in Heroes,” Dossett says about Pawk’s 2019 performance in the eerie Will Arbery play Heroes of the Fourth Turning. Pawk then sends praise back to Dossett, remembering what it was like to watch her husband sing “You'll Never Get Away From Me” as Herbie in the 2003 Broadway revival of Gypsy opposite the legendary Bernadette Peters. “The two of them were dancing and he reaches his hands around and he grabs her bottom,” she recounts, describing Dossett’s almost too-convincing performance. “I'm not really a jealous person…And I was like, ‘wait a minute!’ After the show was over I was like, ‘A-plus.’"

"It's what we do, but it doesn't necessarily define us completely." –John Dossett

There's a mutual admiration for one another’s talent in their rapport, but the esteem clearly extends beyond professional successes or failures—largely because, as Dossett explains, “It's what we do, but it doesn't necessarily define us completely.” “I think of us as journeymen,” says Pawk, trying to encapsulate the vast collection of projects on which she and Dossett have left their mark throughout the years. “Just the journeymen who you couldn't wait to see in another play.”

Now, that play happens to be the $5.5 billion smash-hit Wicked—one of the few Broadway musicals that rivals a Taylor Swift concert for both decibel level and audience devotion. “Sometimes it hurts your ears,” says Dossett. “It's a sonic boom.” Pawk corroborates his story: “To be on that stage at the very end when those two women come rushing through—the wall of sound that smacks you. Really, it's humbling.”

“It's a thrill,” Dossett says, summing up the experience. “I've been in some big shows, and so has Chele. And we've never seen anything like the way people love this show.”

And so, on October 30—dubbed National Wicked Day—the couple will be celebrating that Broadway love in style with a star-studded party filled with Ozians old and new. And on October 31, they’ll be back in suburban New Jersey awaiting the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

“We make cocktails,” says Pawk, revealing her and Dossett’s Halloween tradition. “We sit out on the steps and we just drink and hand out candy to the children. It’s awesome.”

Such is the life of a journeyman.

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