Professional witches talk amateur Wicked premiere

With the first amateur Australian production of Wicked opening at the same time as our professional principal alumni are rehearsing for their Sydney Symphony Orchestra performance, Maddi Ostapiw caught up with Lucy Durack, Jemma Rix, Amanda Harrison and Helen Dallimore to talk about the future of the Green Machine on our shores.

Durack and Rix at Wicked's 2015 Melbourne media call. Photography credit to Scott Barbour.
Durack and Rix at Wicked’s 2015 Melbourne media call. Photography credit to Scott Barbour.

Congregating on their first big media day, all four women spoke candidly to me about their time in Wicked, and what they hope the decision to license the show to amateur groups in Australia will achieve. One of the main talking points centred around the idea that although Wicked has a high-budget past, the show will survive in the amateur world no matter the budget if creative teams and cast members focus on what lies at the core of the piece rather than relying on the visual façade to captivate audiences.

“The biggest thing in the whole show, regardless of how ‘speccy’ the sets, costumes and tech elements are, is the beautiful friendship between the two women,” says Durack. “As a performer and an [audience member], it’s a really fulfilling relationship.”

Kimberly Harris and Lisa Taylor Casserly in Stray Cats Theatre's Wicked. Photography by Jon Lambert.
Kimberly Harris and Lisa Taylor Casserly in Stray Cats Theatre’s Wicked. Photography by Jon Lambert.

Dallimore agrees, noting that while technical elements are important in a spectacle like Wicked, it is more important to create a world that advocates the heartfelt message of the piece.

“When you’re directing anything, the most important thing is the truth between the actors and telling the story. If you can do that, then regardless of if you have speccy specs, the audience will respond.”

While all four actors maintained that effects should take a back seat to the emotive elements of the story, they all agreed that producing Wicked would provide amateur companies with an opportunity to show off their artistic ingenuity. Speaking to the creative future of the show, Durack mentioned that she looks forward to seeing the innovation needed to produce the technical work Wicked is popular for.

“I hope that people keep enjoying all the wonderful roles in Wicked, and that the amateur performances will bring more audiences to [the show]. I hope that everyone has a wonderful time with the material, it will be really interesting to see now that it’s out of the realm of replica productions. We’ve all done the exact same production and been directed in the same way, worn the same costumes as every other production around the world, so it will be interesting to see people add their own creative flair.”

Rosa McCarty and Emily McKenzie in CLOC Musical Theatre's Wicked. Photography by Ben Fon.
Rosa McCarty and Emily McKenzie in CLOC Musical Theatre’s Wicked. Photography by Ben Fon.

Rix added that she is particularly looking forward to seeing how Elphaba will defy gravity in various amateur productions, and is interested to see how the design of Glinda’s bubble will change to accommodate budgetary and technical limitations around the country.

“We can’t wait to see different costuming, and design elements particularly… All of those new elements could be very interesting and exciting.”

Thinking back on her many years with Wicked, Rix noted that the ease with which actors can connect with the score and script should be treasured. All four of the women agreed that although the rehearsals and performances of Wicked would be fast paced and incredibly exciting for amateur cast, crew, and creative members, those involved should take the time to look after themselves and appreciate the possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“They get to sing that amazing music from Stephen Schwartz… It’s so nice to work with material that is so well done that you don’t even have to try. It just comes naturally and you can find so many different layers in the music and in the script. You can deliver things in different ways…”

Durack concurs, telling me that she hopes amateur performers learn the same skills she developed during her time in Wicked, giving them a solid foundation for the rest of their musical theatre career (should they pursue one).

Idina Menzel and Helen Dallimore in the original West End production of Wicked. Photography by Robbie Jack/Corbis.
Idina Menzel and Helen Dallimore in the original West End production of Wicked. Photography by Robbie Jack/Corbis.

“You can learn so much from doing Wicked over and over again, there’s so much you can [discover] and teach yourself when you’re working with that material…  I feel like I’ve learned a lot in many different areas of my career, just from that one show. I never felt bored [doing Wicked], it’s so exciting that amateur groups can now get a go at it.”

Durack and Rix both hope that the legacy of Wicked in Australia only grows with the rights opened up to the amateur world, with Durack believing the negative attitude of some fans towards the idea of amateur Wicked is “a bit mean”.

“I think Wicked is responsible for getting a lot of young women into the theatre who perhaps hadn’t been to the theatre often or weren’t theatregoers, and I think it has fostered a love of theatre in Australia. I will always be very grateful to Wicked for that. It has definitely opened theatre up to a younger generation, and I think that is really important.”

“More Wicked is better for everyone, the more the merrier. We’ve done Wicked in Australia many times, it’s time for someone else to have a go.”

The first amateur production of Wicked opened in Melbourne last week, produced by the highly regarded CLOC Musical Theatre. Seasons in Western Australia, Newcastle and Sydney will follow, with multiple productions already announced for the 2016/17 amateur theatre calendar. Witches With Your SSO will play for two nights only in July, and AussieTheatre will bring you more interview coverage closer to the date.

Chookas to all involved in the past, present and future of Wicked the Musical!

Maddi Ostapiw

Maddi is a performer who has been too scared to stand in the spotlight for the last few years, so she channels her need for love and appreciation into writing about the theatre instead. An energetic consumer of musical theatre, she is currently earning a degree in journalism and teaches voice in her small hometown. Maddi is normally covered in cat fur, has an opinion on everything, and in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, is not throwing away her shot.

Maddi Ostapiw

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