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Interview: Wicked stars Jacqueline Hughes and Carly Anderson on the musical's enduring popularity

"It's rare that such wonderful roles are written for women in musical theatre"

We all know and love the story of The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy travels down the Yellow Brick Road and defeats the Wicked Witch of the West with the help of the friends she meets on the way. But in the musical world of Wicked, the Wicked Witch is actually a misunderstood and victimised character. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, the musical hit has won three Tony Awards and two Olivier Awards in New York and London respectively, and has been beloved by theatregoers worldwide since its debut in 2003.

The musical follows two witches, Elphaba and Glinda, as they turn from rival students into the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. Touring Hong Kong for the first time at the Academy of Performing Arts this December, Jacqueline Hughes and Carly Anderson, the show’s two leading ladies, who play the green-skinned Elphaba and the perpetually pink Glinda respectively, tell us why Wicked is a must-see musical event. 

Hi, Jacqueline and Carly! What’s it like to step into the shoes of such iconic characters?
Hughes: It’s incredible. I was very lucky to be there in London and see Idina Menzel, who originated the role. Now, 10 years later, to be here owning this role is mind blowing!
Anderson: For me, Glinda’s a wonderful character to play. She’s an extremely complex character and she’s actually really flawed. She’s not perfect, as much as she likes to think she is. And that’s why we love her. 

What’s your favourite thing about inhabiting your character?
H: The songs in the show take the characters on an incredible journey, especially for my character, Elphaba. In the beginning, she has a lot of hopes and dreams, as one does when they’re young. But she’s often misunderstood. She’s never been loved in her entire life, by her family or by her sister, and she has to battle with that everyday. She’s a tough woman, very witty and very sure of herself. She’s a wonderful character to play. 
A: Glinda’s got so many things I adore. She’s funny, bubbly and extremely positive. She always wants to make people feel better if they’re feeling down. And she changes for good via her relationship with Elphaba. She goes on an incredible journey that’s really wonderful to portray every evening. It’s rare that such wonderful roles are written for women in musical theatre.

Composer Stephen Schwartz’s music is absolutely incredible – he even won a Grammy for it. What do you love most about it? 
A: These songs are some of the best songs written for women in musical theatre history. There are so many thrilling and amazing moments, like in Defying Gravity when the music really builds and it’s a powerful moment for Elphaba. But what I love is that the whole score is peppered with little musical references to The Wizard of Oz. There’re a lot of great moments for people who know the movie well.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
A:Wicked tells an incredible story of love, friendship, acceptance and betrayal. There’s also a really strong anti-bullying message within the show. But I think this story appeals to so many people of different ages and generations. Wherever you’re from or whatever your background is, I think everyone can relate to the story of friendship and how that can be the best feeling in the world. 
H: And the fact that Wicked has never been here before is so exciting. We can’t wait to have these audiences that don’t know the show and to see their reactions. The show isn’t just a spectacle with huge sets and wonderful costumes and incredible music. It has so much heart. That’s what so special about the show, and I think Hong Kong audiences are going to be astounded.

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