Even the scariest of villains has a reason for their wickedness – and in the musical Wicked, the Wicked Witch of the West finally gets the chance to tell her side of the classic tale in the land of Oz.
The musical regularly performs to sell-out crowds worldwide. Young Post sent along three junior reporters to talk to the international cast and directors while the show is still in the city.
Hong Kong goes green with envy
Remember the spiralling yellow brick road, the squeaky Munchkins and Dorothy’s magic slippers from The Wizard of Oz? They’re all here in Wicked, which has been entertaining theatregoers on Broadway in the US and the West End in Britain for more than a decade now. The show has finally been brought to Hong Kong by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, bringing with it positive messages about friendship and more than a little hint of magic at the Lyric Theatre at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Created by Stephan Schwartz, a renowned composer, Wicked is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire called Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which follows the unlikely friendship between Elphaba, who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West (played by Jacqueline Hughes in the international tour version), and Glinda, the Good Witch (Carly Anderson).
Even though the show itself only lasts for a dazzling two and a half hours, weeks – even months – of preparation go into it before it hits the stage. There are costumes to be designed and rehearsals, after all.
“From Elphaba’s hat, to the costumes worn by each Munchkin, to the quirky, off-balance choreography, every single detail needs to be well thought so that the audience believes they’re actually in the Land of Oz,” said Leigh Constantine, the resident director.
Musically, Wicked utilises many uncommon instruments to create a quirky, unique soundscape.
“We’ve managed to create unusual sounds by using percussion instruments,” says Dave Rose, the musical director. “They all come together to create a sound world that doesn’t sound like [something you’d find in] any other musical.”
Getting into the minds of the characters
It’s not just about the weird and wonderful costumes, the fantastic singing and the energetic dancing though. Musicals are about getting into the heads of the characters on the show too. Hughes stressed the importance of having great teachers and tutors.
“Be a sponge and absorb everything your teachers and tutors tell you. Go to as many dancing, singing and acting classes, and go and watch theatre to learn from others,” she said.
Most of all though, she added, the key thing is to just be yourself on stage. Elphaba is considered to be demonic and strange by the people around her because her skin is green. “Elphaba is [a] completely misunderstood [character]. All she ever wants to do is the right thing. She knows who she is and she’s proud of that – she never tries to be anything she’s not. As an actress I try to stay true and honest to her story, and face her challenges as she would.”
“She is a very black and white type of person,” Hughes adds. “There are no grey areas [for her].”
In Wicked, Elphaba’s eventual BFF is the goodly and tremendously popular Galinda (who eventually renames herself Glinda).
“Theatre has been a passion of mine from a very young age,” said Anderson. “I think my initial interest in singing comes from my dad. He used to play old 60s and 70s songs on his guitar and my sister and I would sing along.”
Being a part of a musical on tour is much like being a popstar on tour – you have to race to keep up with a tight schedule, battle homesickness and try to maintain relationships long distance.
“I’m a big family person so the things I miss the most are my family and beautiful fiancee”, says Bradley Jaden, who plays Fiyero, the love interest to both characters.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken
Many musicals, when on tour, might try to make alterations to the script, or the music. Wicked doesn’t – the ultimate goal for each version of the musical performed in the world is to keep it as close to the original show as possible.
“We have not made any changes to the music [written by Stephen Schwartz]. That’s because the show was created meticulously over a very long period of time,” says Rose. Changing the music means that it could potentially change the way the audience perceives the story.
And, really, the musical itself is so good that there’s not much that you could do to it anyway. As the saying goes, you can’t improve on perfection.
Wicked is running until January 22.
Junior reporters Jeanie Li, Pauline Wong and Veronica Lin