WHICH IS WITCH? Q&A with Amy Ross and Helen Woolf
The winner of over 100 international awards, Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students and their extraordinary adventures in Oz, which will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West. Based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire that ingeniously re-imagines the stories and characters originally created by L. Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked has become a global phenomenon featuring astounding technical wizardry, stunning costumes and show-stopping songs by three-time Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz.
The multi record-breaking and critically acclaimed touring production of Wicked was first seen at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2014, when it was seen by over 110,000 people – equivalent to 1 in 10 of the entire population of Birmingham. Ahead of it’s highly anticipated return to the venue from 4 – 29 April, we catch up with the show’s stars Amy Ross and Helen Woolf, who take on the iconic roles of Elphaba and Glinda.
AMY ROSS / ELPHABA
How did you react when you found out you’d be taking on the role of Elphaba?
I didn’t really believe it at first to be honest. My agent phoned me to tell me and it definitely took a few days for it to sink in. Then once it did I was firmly on cloud nine!
Elphaba has become such an iconic role; what about her attracted you to the part?
The thing I was most excited about was how incredible the journey is that Elphaba goes on. She is massively changed by the experiences she goes through and the characters she forms relationships with. The emotional arc is so huge that it’s a gift for any actor to play. It goes without saying that Elphaba’s songs are epic! Stephen Schwartz’s score is incredible and singing those songs is so thrilling.
Why do you think she has become such an icon?
Audiences connect with Elphaba because of everything she stands for. She is incredibly passionate and cares so much about things being just. She always tries to help others and stays true to herself no matter what. I also think people can relate to Elphaba because she is an outsider. She is different and most people – at some point in their lives – have felt this way. She puts out the message that it’s OK to be different and to never apologise for it.
How does Elphaba compare to different roles you’ve played in the past?
The roles I’ve played in the past have usually centred around a relationship or a romance, and falling in love with a man. It’s been so wonderful to now play a role where the focus is a friendship between two strong – and very different – women.
How long does it take to get the green makeup off after a performance?
No longer than 10-15 minutes if you want to do a thorough job. After a matinee performance I might be less thorough as I know I have to ‘re-green’ for the evening show. But no matter how hard you think you have scrubbed, you will always find a bit of green paint behind your ear or in your hairline that you didn’t manage to get!
Do you have a favourite song from Wicked?
My favourite song is No Good Deed. Elphaba is in emotional turmoil at this point, so it’s not only exciting to perform from an acting point of view, but also the orchestrations are so powerful and intense that it’s a thrill to sing.
If you could give Elphaba any advice, what would you say to her?
I would tell her she’s awesome and to continue to stay true to herself. But perhaps sometimes take a deep breath and count to ten before she speaks!
HELEN WOOLF / GLINDA
Glinda must be a joy to play?
I’m so proud to be taking on the role of Glinda, there are so few people who have played the role, so it feels very special to be part of that small family! She has become an iconic character in musical theatre, and it is so rewarding to be part of a show that puts a friendship between two strong female characters at the heart of the story.
Which of Glinda’s characteristics do you admire?
I love Glinda’s ability to see the good in everything and everyone. She is also incredibly strong.
What is the most challenging aspect of Glinda’s character to play?
Glinda has a lot of comedic lines, and she often has a slightly airheaded approach to things. But it’s important to play her with a truthfulness, as underneath the bubbly exterior she feels things very deeply. It’s also important to look after yourself vocally and physically to play the role eight times a week.
What is your favourite moment in the show?
The end of Act 1 is a really spectacular sequence which still gives me chills every night. It’s the perfect combination of the story reaching an amazing climax, an incredible song by Stephen Schwartz, and a total visual spectacle. I won’t say any more for those that haven’t seen the show yet!
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
I would say that life has a way of working things out, so don’t spend too much time worrying about the future. Oh, and don’t eat too much cheese. I love cheese!