Wicked is one of the longest running shows in the West End. A few weeks ago they have celebrated nine years of Wicked and luckily they will keep on delighting the audience with their lovely story for yet another season.
When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch, we only ever heard one side of the story. Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.
Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future.
Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
If you haven’t seen the show just yet, from experience I tell you that you should. Wicked is a moving story told in an extremely beautiful way: from the stage décor and costumes to its main song. The other day we got the chance to sit down with some of the actors involved in the show and find out more about Wicked and themselves…
Can you both tell me how you got involved with the project?
Savannah: I just auditioned, got a call from my agent about it and I recall I was a bit hesitant because I didn’t exactly looked like Glinda, but I went along with it and that’s how it started. There were a few auditions and at the final one you actually have to go on tape because the American producers have to see and approve you and I got the job. Put like that it sounds very simple when actually it isn’t.
Emma: It was exactly the same for me, except for the fact that when I started with Wicked I was actually the stand by for this role, which is quite unique and it’s an American thing I believe. I was on a lot and eventually crawled my way up. I’ve only been playing the role full time only since February.
Savannah: We actually came in together.
Emma: That’s true, we started at the same time, two years ago. And it’s nice to do it full time now and have it as our show.
If you guys would have to describe one another, one word for the character and one for the person behind the character what would you choose?
Emma: Oh, I like this! Can I go first?
Savannah: Sure, sure.
Emma: I would describe Savannah as gracious. Yes, in everything she does and I absolutely love her. In character, that’s a bit harder. You go.
Savannah: My word to describe Emma, though there would be so many good qualities, but if I need to pick I would say hardworking. A proper hard worker.
Emma: OK, Glinda is… This is so hard! She is hopeful.
Savannah: Nice! I think Elphaba is… oh Gosh!
Emma: It’s harder for characters, I wouldn’t have thought that!
Savannah: Oh my God! Green. (Laughs all around) No no, seriously now, I want a word that would describe that she is set on a course and she will stick to it. Determined, she’s determined!
Let’s say you would really have some sort of super powers, what would you change in your character?
Emma: I would try to smooth things over with Glinda for running off with her boyfriend because it breaks my heart every night I have to say the line. And I wish there was a way of kind of letting her know that I am alright, to get a finality. I don’t like the fact that we have to go on our separate way.
Savannah: Following up from that, I think that I would love us to end up together and that Elphaba’s name would be cleared somehow. With her power and my goodness…
Emma: Perhaps we could do a sequel?!
Savannah: Yes, just Elphaba and Glinda!
You currently have a lot of experience when it comes to theatre, would you want to remain just on stage or also to move on the screens?
Emma: For me, I would love to try working on TV or film, but the other thing that I would really love to do is recording work. As a singer, rather than acting.
Savannah: I have already done some TV and film and my only goal is to be able to do everything. I loved doing theatre, but also loved doing TV and film and to be able to cross mediums, which in this country is quite hard sometimes, that would be my goal.
Tell me a bit about getting into your costumes because Savannah, you are not blonde and Emma, you are for sure not as green.
Savannah: We have an amazing team of people.
Emma: Yes, that matters a lot. And I always kind of re-quote this, one of the Elphabas on Broadway referred to the character as a racing car: you come off and you have pit stops, people check that everything is as it should be. And I think it’s such a great analogy. Because it is all these people, this wonderful team of people who are so valuable and so important to the running of the show. It’s a real team effort.
So how are you enjoying London, Tom?
Tom: We are having the greatest time! My wife is here with me. My daughter is studying here at the Globe theatre. So it’s been great! I’ve been telling everybody that I have gone to Bath, Brighton, I went to Greenwitch yesterday, so I am being a proper full time tourist. Plus I get to also be the Wizard of Oz.
And how does it feel to be the greatest wizard of all times?
Tom: To play that role is really terrific. And I think I’ve worked with something like three Elphabas. And they arealways fantastic. So is England. I absolutely love being over here, it’s a great country. Very welcoming. The shows are terrific and it’s different enough from New York so it is fun.
Tom, you mentioned you been with the show for a while, but how exactly is it that both of ended up playing your characters?
Sean: The job I was in prior to this, The Commitments, was closing so I was thinking what to do next. What to look for. And at the same time they were looking for company member and I got the job and here I am.
Tom: My daughter, when she was nine saw Defying Gravity on the Tony Awards. She asked for the album and all summer long she and her best friend performed song from the album in my backyard. And a year later, the first national show came to LA, and we went to the matinee, with twenty other people, and she and her best friend where comparing notes and I talked to the director at that time and we got a backstage tour and it was amazing. About two years later they asked me if I would be interested in doing the show. And it came at a great time, and I haven’t done a musical since Chicago and I was thrilled. So I’ve been with the show on and off for about five of the last seven years. And I like that the wizard is not who the audience expects him to be or who the other people expect him to be. He makes some bad choices in his life, but I think his choices are his way of holding on to something that he finds as being a good thing. I find that challenging and interesting.
Sean: And Doctor Dillamond is a challenge because of the mask as well. Is that thing of you wearing the mask and not letting it wear you. It can be a bit difficult to play beyond that so that you are not just looking at someone with a face on but believe that this person actually is a walking and talking goat. And also I think he is like everyone’s favourite history teacher or English teacher.
Sean: A lot of the younger film stars all they’s done is film or TV work. Some have been picked up straight from collage or the street so they go into very in a way artificial environment where you can stop and retake and reshot and reorganise. But live theatre is where your craft is and where a lot of people of our generation have learned the craft. Even if because you have a crowd of different people watching you every time. Also in the show we are doing the configuration changes almost every night for example, so the energy changes all of the time and you don’t get that in film or TV.
Tom: In the American Actors’ Equity I’ve been a member since I’ve graduated from drama school, so for twenty eight years and only two of those years I haven’t done a play. So I’ve always searched out theatre and have always come back. Maybe sometimes I’ve been too busy for it, but always returned. And in the last years it’s been a great opportunity to get my kids through college and play a great role. So sometimes when you get attached to something that’s a phenomenon you’re hesitate to jump off the ship if they keep on wanting you. Take this, I had no idea this would happen, but when they called to ask me if I wanted to go to West End of course I did! It’s an American theatre actor’s dream to play in the West End.
Sean: And most actors here would absolutely love to play on Broadway. We always want what we don’thave.
If you be able to change something about your characters, what would you change?
Tom: Mine would have a better singing voice!
Sean: And mine would have much more scenes! Apparently in the early version of this, there was a funeral for Doctor Dillamond. I think the top of the second act would open with that.
Tom: That’s right. In the book he gets murdered. And they did that in San Francisco when they were trying out the show. In fact the coffin is in the Gershwin Theatre, they have a little display of former props and one of them is the original Dillamond glass coffin.
Sean: Just like Snow White!
Tom: So you would have had an extra scene, but you would be sitting in that.
Sean: It’s alright, I’ll take it!
Let’s take it one by one and with the beginning. How did you get started with the play? (The gentlemen decided ladies first.)
Carina: I am sure mine is a boring story.
Daniel: Come on, give it a go!
Carina: I just got a call from my agent to audition for the role of Nessarose originally and with a cover of Elphaba and I just didn’t want to do that so I was a bit naughty at the audition and offered to sing an opera song at one point. And they looked at me sort of “you know this is not for Nessarose, and I know it’s not for that”, but they allowed me to and I sang that and then they sent me the materials for Glinda. And I ended up going on tour playing Nessarose and covering for Glinda.
Daniel: I was in college and I saw the advert and I basically ran to the agency saying I wanted to be seen for Boq. They said they’ll try to get me an audition. But I was like “No, I want to be seen for Boq!”. And they put me forward for the general audition, but Wicked said they wanted to see me audition for Boq and I was like “Yes!”. And I didn’t get it that year, but the year after I did. So I just thought I need to push and try because what did I have to lose in the end?
Oliver: I just auditioned and that was it. For that part to begin with, got a call so went and got it.
Carina: Aren’t you original? I just got a call, the end!
Have a look at the official Fan Carpet website for the full interview!