As Wicked prepares to land in Sunderland next month, The Guide speaks to Amy Ross about going green as main character 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!”
Can you tell me about the first time you saw Wicked?
“I saw the original London cast at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Idina Menzel was playing Elphaba, and I remember feeling really lucky to see the actress who originated the role right at the very start of Wicked’s journey on Broadway.
“There have been so many wonderful actresses to play the role since, but she set the benchmark for the character.
“I already knew the soundtrack really well, so it was amazing to see the incredible story unfold and learn how all the songs fit in. I also remember being in awe of how visually stunning it was – and of course still is.”
What attracted you to the role of Elphaba?
“The thing I was most excited about was how incredibly huge the emotional arc is that Elphaba goes on. She is massively changed by the experiences she goes through and the characters she forms relationships with.
“The character journey from start to finish is so huge that it’s a gift for any actor to play. It goes without saying that Elphaba’s songs are epic. Steven Schwartz’s score is incredible and singing those sings is so thrilling.
Who is Elphaba? Could you describe her in your own words?
“She is a green girl who came into the world different. Not just because of the way she looks, but also because of her magical powers.
“She is an incredibly loyal and passionate person who cares deeply about people, animals, and things being just. She uses her powers to try and do good, but things don’t always go to plan. She is misunderstood, and eventually becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. But is she really ‘wicked’?
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 would you describe Wicked? To me it’s about the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, and overcoming adversity. What do you think?
“Well that’s a perfect description. It’s an incredible story showing what happened in Oz before Dorothy arrived on the scene.
“At the heart of it is a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship between two very different women who become the characters we know as the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North.
“I would also describe Wicked as visually and aurally stunning. The costumes and sets are magical and the music is epic.
How does Elphaba compare to different roles you’ve played?
“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 make-up 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.”
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 10 before she speaks!
• Wicked is at Sunderland Empire from September 6-29. Tickets from Tel. 0844 871 3022
We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets for the Wicked performance on Tuesday, September 11, at 7.30pm. The tickets are non-transferable and no monetary value will be given.
To be in with a chance of winning, collect the token in the paper today and tomorrow and return them with your name and contact details to Wicked Competition, Katy Wheeler, Johnston Press North East, 2nd Floor, Alexander House, 1 Mandarin Road, Rainton Bridge Business Park, Houghton, Sunderland, DH4 5RA. Entries will be deleted once the competition is drawn and not passed on to a third party.