Manila’s musical fans rejoiced when they learned that Wicked, the much-acclaimed Broadway production, will be making its way to the country in 2014. The show, known for its heartwarming story, superb sets, and exquisite performance numbers, has won 50 awards, making it one of the must-watch musicals of the decade.
“You can expect a very, very exciting evening of theater,” Lunchbox Theatrical Productions CEO James Cundall remarked about the show, which was already brought to other Asian countries in the past years. “You can expect an exact replica of what you’d see in Broadway, on the West End. No shortcuts were made, it’s exactly the same. It’s a big, big, big show.”
Headlining the Philippine cast are Australians Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers, who will respectively play Elphaba, the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the beautiful Good Witch of the North. FN got to chat with the two stars about their experiences on the show and the things they love about their characters during Wicked’s press launch. Check out our exclusive Q and A below!
1. BOTH GLINDA AND ELPHABA HAVE BECOME ICONS FOR A LOT OF YOUNG WOMEN. WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES THEM SO INSPIRING?
JEMMA RIX (J): I think for Elphaba, particularly in the start, when you could see her green skin. Firstly, from her father, that was pretty horrible, but then all the people who see her for the first time and they’re disgusted by her. It’s literally just because she has green skin… I think everyone can relate to that because I’m sure everyone who was growing up got picked on and bullied at school, so that was easy, to find that hurt and sorrow. I’m not the strongest Elphaba, but I love that she’s so strong and despite everything she has been through, she still sticks to what she believes in and still fights, and I think that’s such an admirable quality in a person. That’s why I think so many people really like her because even though she’s being picked on, she still fights.
SUZIE MATHERS (S): As for Glinda, people like her because she’s funny and she’s blonde and she’s popular and bubbly and she’s a princess at the beginning. The one thing that inspires me and what I love about her character is her ability to change and grow and learn as a person. You can often get stuck in one way of thinking or one way of being, but she takes every situation and adapts, grows, learns, and becomes a better person through it, and that’s why I think people also fall in love with her in the end and forget about the first act, her being mean, and you just see this beautiful friendship appear.
2. WHAT HAS PLAYING GLINDA AND ELPHABA TAUGHT YOU ABOUT BEING FRIENDS IN REAL LIFE?
S: Never judge a book by its cover, that’s the biggest thing.
J: Who would’ve thought, especially at the start of the show? They were the complete opposite of each other, and they become best friends through time and troubles.
S: It teaches you about trials and acceptance. We’ve become really great friends throughout the show.
3. WHAT’S WERE THE CHALLENGES YOU CAME ACROSS WITH WHILE PLAYING THE SAID CHARACTERS?
J: For me, vocally, I did a lot of work to make sure that I was singing comfortably in my voice, that I was in a safe place, because you can do it once off, fine, but you have to learn how to do it the next day and the day after that. And the hardest thing for me was the character, she is always yelling, always angry. So finding ways to yell in a safe place, to be able to still give the character its feistiness and its fire that it needs to have, was something I needed to work on technically. It took time, but I sort of found my little way.
S: It was about finding the stamina to just get through the show. We do eight shows a week, to be able to do that and to keep it fresh, keep it bubbly. For me, the biggest challenge, for Glinda, [is] getting her bubbly personality. And I suppose, in the first part, her shallowness--trying to really connect with that and taking her on a huge journey for the second half. She becomes a human being who wants to help people as opposed to what she initially does. So that’s the challenge, and we learn from every show. Every show we do, we learn something new about the character.
J: And we have a director, a musical director, who would come in, and go, “Oh think about this, or do it like this.” It was always a workshop.
4. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT PLAYING YOUR CHARACTERS?
J: I love being able to sing everyday.
S: Yeah, me too.
J: When I was growing up, I wanted to sing everyday. I think that’s the coolest thing for me.
S: Getting to kind of play your dream role, be a part of this amazing show, being part of the Wicked family, we call it. It’s pretty incredible. And getting to sing the high notes in the beginning.
5. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ABLE TO TOUCH THE LIVES OF SO MANY PEOPLE BY PLAYING ELPHABA AND GLINDA?
J: It does feel quite overwhelming, and you do feel gratitude, I feel so grateful to be living in all these different places and experiencing all these different things. I feel lucky, and I do think people need to realize as well that a lot of us who are in Wicked, we were fans of Wicked before we were in the production, so we’re just like everybody else.
S: Yeah, we love the show as much as you do!
J: To be able to sing those songs and play these characters, it’s virtually living our dream. I still remember when I first heard the soundtrack for the first time, and I was crying because I was so overwhelmed by how beautiful the music was, by how powerful the singing was, so yes, to be able to sing that stuff, it was awesome.
S: It’s a gift to be a part of this show, and to meet people who are touched by the show. We have an incredible fanbase, especially here in the Philippines, we had people flying to Singapore to come and see the show who are from the Philippines. I think there was a Facebook petition to get us here, so it was wonderful to know that and to be a part of this great show, it really is. So for us, to be doing this, it’s just incredible.
(Photos by Jeff Busby and Maye E. Wong, Juho Sim, and Andrew Richie courtesy of Concertus Manila)