Wicked

Hampshire Life - - Inside - PHO­TOS: Matt Crock­ett

Meet the lead­ing ladies of the hit show

Some­thing Wicked this way comes… the hit mu­si­cal fol­lows the yel­low brick road to Southampton this month. Lead­ing ladies Amy Ross and He­len Woolf

share tales from be­hind the emer­ald cur­tain with RE­BECCA FLETCHER

Some­thing dev­il­ishly mag­i­cal flies into the Mayflower The­atre in Southampton this month. Fol­low­ing a multi-mil­lion pound re­fur­bish­ment which has seen the the­atre’s Grade II listed au­di­to­rium re­painted and brand new seat­ing in the Stalls and Cir­cle, the Mayflower will play host to the UK and Ire­land tour of the award-win­ning Broad­way and West End mu­si­cal hit, Wicked. What bet­ter way to con­tinue the Mayflower’s 90th year cel­e­bra­tions than to wel­come an ex­clu­sive and fi­nal South Eng­land leg of such a crit­i­cally ac­claimed tour­ing pro­duc­tion? Talk­ing to Wicked’s Amy Ross and He­len Woolf who play the iconic roles of El­phaba and

Glinda, it’s easy to see how one could be­come spell­bound by a pro­duc­tion which is now the 14th long­est run­ning West End show of all time.

“Wicked is all round per­fec­tion,” Amy ex­plains. “It’s vis­ually stun­ning. The chore­og­ra­phy is beau­ti­ful. The score is ab­so­lutely per­fect. It’s just a won­der­ful story which I don’t think any­one could fail to con­nect with in some way.”

Based on the best­selling novel by Gre­gory Maguire which re-imag­ines the sto­ries and char­ac­ters cre­ated in L. Frank Baum’s The Won­der­ful Wiz­ard of Oz, Wicked tells the story of two young women who meet as sor­cery stu­dents at Shiz Univer­sity. They strike up an un­likely but pro­found friend­ship which will change their lives for­ever. As their ex­tra­or­di­nary ad­ven­tures in the Land of Oz pro­pel them to­wards their des­tinies as Glinda The Good, and the Wicked Witch of the West, we fol­low the in­cred­i­ble jour­neys of the blonde and very pop­u­lar Glinda (He­len) as she be­comes se­duced by power, and the green­skinned and mis­un­der­stood El­phaba (Amy) who re­mains true to her­self de­spite all the con­se­quences for her fu­ture.

Far from the tra­di­tional mu­si­cal the­atre plots where ro­mance is the driv­ing force, Wicked is one of a few hit shows which pro­pels strong fe­male roles into the spot­light; some­thing which its lead­ing ladies are thrilled about.

“We feel so lucky to be in these iconic roles. Par­tic­u­larly as so many mu­si­cals ex­plore ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships. It’s so great to be in a show which fo­cuses on two women and their friend­ship,” Amy shares. “That’s at the heart of the show. It’s a lovely mes­sage about em­brac­ing your dif­fer­ences and learn­ing to love each other.”

Wicked is truly a hit for the mod­ern era. With show­stop­pers such as De­fy­ing Grav­ity and For Good, it’s this fo­cus on fe­male roles tak­ing cen­tre stage that has led to some com­men­ta­tors nam­ing El­phaba and Glinda as 21st cen­tury hero­ines.

‘ We feel so lucky to be in these iconic roles’

“Glinda is very funny – she’s seen as want­ing for noth­ing but un­der­neath all that she faces re­jec­tion on many lev­els,” He­len de­scribes her char­ac­ter. “It’s how she deals with that - that is the mag­i­cal thing about her. The best mes­sage that comes across with Glinda is that no one’s per­fect but we can all do our best to make things right.”

As their story un­folds, the show ex­plores the char­ac­ters be­yond their orig­i­nal pi­geon­holes of the pop­u­lar girl and the out­sider.

“El­phaba’s al­ways fight­ing for things to be fair and never giv­ing up. Be­ing green, she’s very dif­fer­ent, an out­sider. In to­day’s world when we see so many air­brushed pho­tos of per­fect look­ing women, it’s a great mes­sage which she’s putting out there – that it’s ok to be dif­fer­ent. Don’t apol­o­gise for look­ing dif­fer­ent. Just em­brace it,” Amy shares. “Both char­ac­ters have such an in­cred­i­ble arc of emo­tions.”

Seen all around the world by over 55 mil­lion peo­ple, Wicked has won more than 100 ma­jor awards. With many mem­o­rable past pro­duc­tions, it might be hard not to feel as though you were step­ping into an­other ac­tress’ shoes, es­pe­cially for He­len, as she was orig­i­nally cast as Glinda’s un­der­study in the Lon­don show

prior to the tour. How­ever, the pair have em­braced their roles with­out feel­ing ham­pered by com­par­isons or ex­pec­ta­tions about their on­stage per­sonas.

“When I found out I’d got the part, I’d al­ready played Glinda quite a few times. How­ever, I’d never done eight shows in a row for weeks on end,” He­len ex­plains. “Of course you bring el­e­ments of your­self to the role. You don’t want to copy any­one. Nat­u­rally we’ll all be dif­fer­ent be­cause no two peo­ple are ever the same.”

“Peo­ple have ex­pec­ta­tions about the show and our parts – more than in any other show I’ve known. How­ever He­len and I don’t see that as a pres­sure,” Amy re­veals. “We ap­proach it as a priv­i­lege, to take on roles which have been played by such in­cred­i­ble women be­fore us.”

It’s this abil­ity to bring their

own per­son­al­i­ties to the role along­side their fan­tas­tic on­stage chem­istry which has been highly praised by crit­ics and fans of the show as well as those see­ing it for the first time.

“Wicked is an in­cred­i­bly well-oiled ma­chine,” says Amy. “I thought that as a re­sult we’d be go­ing in try­ing to repli­cate the way it had been done be­fore us. How­ever, we’ve re­ally been al­lowed to bring our own per­son­al­ity to the parts, which is so im­por­tant from an act­ing point of view. You want to be­lieve in the choices you’re mak­ing.”

Be­hind the Emer­ald Cur­tain, there must be chal­lenges when tak­ing such a well­known hit on tour. Mov­ing a pro­duc­tion which in­volves over 100 peo­ple both on and off stage, ad­just­ing to each the­atre with lo­cal dressers and dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal en­vi­ron­ments, one would imag­ine a few hic­cups along the way. It seems that here too magic forces are at work as cast and crew are able to ad­just with­out com­pro­mis­ing the in­tegrity of the mu­si­cal, even with a gru­elling sched­ule of eight shows a week.

“There’s a real buzz ev­ery­where we’ve been. Ev­ery­one has been so en­thu­si­as­tic,” He­len laughs. “I’ve never known a job be so slick. The love and the pas­sion and care be­hind the scenes is some­thing like I’ve never seen be­fore.”

“I’ve done tours be­fore where you go to a smaller venue and they cut the set back and change things,” shares Amy. “What’s great about the Wicked team is that they aren’t pre­pared to do that. They want the show to be ex­actly as it should be ev­ery­where we go.”

Reach­ing a mile­stone of 200 per­for­mances on tour, it seems that ev­ery leg has of­fered up a new ex­pe­ri­ence too.

“The tour­ing side of it keeps it re­ally fresh. Ev­ery venue is slightly dif­fer­ent; the au­di­ence re­spond dif­fer­ently to dif­fer­ent things,” Amy con­tin­ues.

“What I love about the­atre is that peo­ple can put aside the world for a cou­ple of hours and just be en­ter­tained. We’ve got a lovely story to tell and both of us feel very lucky to be a part of that,” He­len adds as they both pre­pare to dash off to cos­tume and don the green makeup in Amy’s case.

With so much pas­sion and en­ergy from this ta­lented pair in the green room, this Wicked tour is sure to cast its very own spell over au­di­ences at the Mayflower The­atre in no time at all.

TOP: There are over 100 cast and crew mem­bers on the tourABOVE: Amy and He­len feel priv­iledged to play such iconic fe­male roles

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