Witches are here
'Wicked' ready to cast spell on Seoul
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Tall with a clear-cut face Jemma Rix was wearing a lacy black dress, while shorter blonde Suzie Mathers in a white dress kept smiling. It was clear who would play the good and who would the evil witch — at least in the show.
Rix plays Elphaba, or the Wicked Witch of the West, in the Broadway hit “Wicked” and Mathers plays her counterpart Glinda the Good. The two first met in 2007 during an audition for the Australian production of “Wicked.”
“Wicked” is one of the biggest Broadway hits and delves into the classic “The Wizard of Oz” from a different viewpoint — how the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch met and the true intentions of the Wizard. With enticing music and spectacular sets, the musical has cast a spell on more than 30 million people.
Rix and Mathers began as ensemble and understudy before finally landing the roles of the two witches. After finishing a three-year run in Australia, the production flew to Singapore last December and finally comes to Korea on May 31. They didn’t know they would be playing Elphaba and Glinda together in Korea after four years.
“We are excited to be able to work in a new place with a new culture,” Rix said in an interview with The Korea Times.
Both have been with the company of “Wicked” for years, but they didn’t seem to be bored with the show. “It doesn’t feel like four years. It’s such an amazing show and I am still learning and loving it,” Rix said.
Mathers left the show for a year to do Sophie in “Mamma Mia!” but triumphantly returned as the bubbly Glinda. “Coming back to ‘Wicked’ was as wonderful to be a part of it as it was before,” Mathers said.
Rix, who has played the role of Elphaba about 800 times in Australia and Singapore, has a greenish tinge on her hand and neck. It is a badge of honor for playing the green witch for such a long time.
“Just because Elphaba has green skin, though she is like everybody else, people do not love her and pick on her. I think everybody can relate to the story as people have experience of being teased or picked on,” Rix said. “She also learns that things arenas wonderful as she always thought when she meets the Wizard.”
Rix said it was not difficult to act the rebellious witch since the character was so well written. “Though I am not as outspoken as Elphaba and she is much stronger than I am, I admire the character,” she said.
She said singing “Defying Gravity” was one of the amazing moments of the show, taking her breath away. “All the elements of music, lighting, magic and the decision to defy — it all comes together,” she said.
Putting on green makeup six days a week is not easy. It takes about an hour for Rix to transform into the green witch with help from makeup artists. Taking off the makeup is another labor. “I only use gentle products. I don’t use perfume and don’t even exfoliate,” she said. “Because I use these products, I can’t remove the body-paint very well so I have green stained skin.”
“Wicked” is also known for its award-winning costumes. Glinda’s bubble dress for her first scene weighs about 25 kilograms and Elphaba’s black dresses, which might look alike, have all different details.
Rix’s favorite costume is the Wicked Witch dress she wears in the second act. “People do not know that there is a lot of color in the dress, but there is purple, blue and red,” the actress said. “It is elegant and when I have my hat on, I look so perfect.”
Mathers, who wears a variety of glamorous dresses in white, pink, blue and yellow in the show, picked an ensemble costume as her favorite. “In the Emerald City scene, the ensemble wears this detailed, mermaid-line costume and has an umbrella. Every single member of the cast has costumes threaded with different materials such as beads and crystals,” she said.
“Wicked” revolves around the friendship of the two witches, which could be unusual for most big musicals which focus on male-female relationships. Though they are very different from appearance to personalities, Rix and Mathers seem to have a strong friendship like Elphaba and Glinda. “The core of ‘Wicked’ is about life, love and friendship,” Rix said.
Mathers said girls have an amazing ability to forgive. “No matter what happens in your friendship or life, friendship is worth more than anything. That’s one thing I can take from the show,” she said.
“Wicked” will be staged at Blue Square in Hannam-dong, Seoul, from May 31. Tickets cost from 50,000 to 160,000 won. Visit www.wickedthemusical.co.kr for more information.