As Helen Woolf says, time has absolutely flown by.
“They say time flies when you are having fun! And it has!”
And now Southampton gets a chance to have fun too – as Wicked arrives in the city for a stint at the Mayflower Theatre, running from October 3-27.
An ingenious and witty re-imagining of the stories and characters created by L Frank Baum in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students.
Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Playing Glinda is Helen: “And I have loved every minute of it. We have been on the road since November, and I don’t know where the time has gone.”
For Helen, it has been a question of stepping up.
“I was part of the first UK tour back in 2013. That tour went on for two years. I only did the first year, so I haven’t done Southampton before. I was in the ensemble and I understudied Glinda. Then I had a bit of time out and did other things and then went into the West End show understudying Glinda and Nessarose. So yes, obviously I can’t get enough of it!”
So what’s it like as an understudy? Are you relieved or frustrated when you don’t get to go on?
“I have understudied several people and they have got their job for a reason. Everyone has to earn their stripes and I think that was what I was doing. But I definitely relished the opportunities to go on. I can’t remember how many times. It is different in the West End where people have holidays and it is a bit more structured and you have a few days that are scheduled. On tour, there are no holidays and it is only if people are poorly.
“But the lovely thing about Wicked is that every ensemble member has their own journey in the show. Everyone gets the chance to stand out in their own away.
“Every show is different, but Wicked is quite good at promoting the understudies. There were quite a few who have gone on ahead of me. They are quite good at nurturing people. But, yes, I was gagging to do it!
“But it was not a question of ‘Oh, I would like to do that!’ and they let me. I still had to audition along with hundreds of other people. There was still a good chance that I wasn’t going to get it. It is just such a fabulous role. It is so iconic.”
And it all comes to an end on January 6 – after 14 months on the road. It is going to feel very strange.
“I remember when I finished my first contract in London the first time round, and every night at about 7 o’clock I would get a bit itchy thinking that I should be somewhere and doing something!”
So Helen will certainly be sorry to say goodbye to the show: “It is just such a wonderful story of friendship and acceptance and a story of love that is not your traditional love story of male and female. This is a story about two women who put aside their differences and become the best of friends. It is about not judging what you see on the surface. It is about going a little bit deeper…”