On the back of massive sales, months of waiting and even bigger expectations, Wicked hits the stage at Southampton’s Mayflower (October 21-November 15).
As Ashleigh Gray, who plays Elphaba, says: “There’s only one way to describe it, and that’s that it’s a phenomenon really.
“It’s just the most incredible spectacle. The sights and the sounds make for the most wonderful experience for everyone of all ages. We have got children of five or six, and we have got people in their 80s and 90s in the audience, all loving it. The sets and the costumes are so beautifully designed. It is all so very individual. The ensemble in the show are the real driving force behind the show, and every one of them is very differently-costumed. It is not just like a chorus line.”
And on top of that you’ve got some stupendous effects to transport you to a magical realm to tell the Wizard of Oz back story.
When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch, we only ever heard one side of the story. Gregory Maguire’s acclaimed 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West re-imagined the Land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to L Frank Baum’s familiar story.
Wicked tells the untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.
Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths as they move towards their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
“It’s a prequel in a way, what happened before Dorothy dropped in,” explains Ashleigh. “But it is also before, during and after The Wizard of Oz. You don’t have to have seen the film to enjoy it, though I don’t believe there is anyone in the world who hasn’t seen it! It’s the story of the relationship between these two women. It takes the iconic film story and turns it on its head.”
And for Ashleigh, it’s more than enough to make her turn green. Literally.
“I have to have special make-up, and I have got a wonderful team of make-up artists that look after me before and during the show. There are three of them that follow me about with paint brushes. It gets very hot during the evening, and I can be literally melting!
“But it’s quite funny. I do often forget the fact that I am green. It’s not like you are wearing prosthetics or a mask. It’s just make-up, and it’s only when I reach out and touch other actors on stage and see myself that I remember!
“It takes between 30 and 40 minutes every show to get greenified as we call it. It’s a great time for me to sit and reflect. I quite often fall asleep – and wake up green!”
As for Elphaba: “She’s so caring. That’s the key word, and it’s so strange to say that about her when you think about the film where she is so vile and evil. But this is at the start of her life. She had a hard upbringing, but she is very focused and very determined. But the biggest obstacle is that she is green. She is looked down upon because she is green. But she is a bit of an activist. She doesn’t like to let bad things happen. She is just very different. It is that college mentality. ‘She is different! Let’s bully her!’ And so she is outcast from the very beginning.”
Tickets on 02380 711811.