Wicked: Interview with the Witches
With over 100 major international awards in its bag, including three Tonys and a Grammy, Wicked is one of the most celebrated musicals of the 21st century.
Since its premiere in 2003, it has been seen by over 50 million people in over 100 cities around the world. The show will fly into Asia once again this September, opening first at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, in Singapore, before going on to Hong Kong and Manilla.
The leading ladies (Jacqueline Hughes, who plays Elphaba, and Carly Anderson, who plays Glinda) were in town recently for a few days, and we met up for a lovely conversation about their pre-show rituals, our shared love for one particular brand of traditional Chinese herbal candy, and what lies at the heart of Wicked.
Bubbamama: Hello! Welcome to Singapore! Is it your first time here?
Jacqueline: It’s my first time in Singapore. I’ve never been to Singapore, so yeah, I’m excited!
BM: How do you like it so far?
J: I love it!
BM: Is it hot?
J: It’s very hot! Well even you say it, but fortunately it’s very cool inside yeah. I can’t wait for us to get here actually, to be able to spend time and explore!
Carly: I’ve been here before but it was only for two days, so I didn’t really get a chance… It was actually a stopover, so it’ll be much better this time!
BM: I saw your Instagram actually, and I see you’ve already tried the Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel.
J,C: Yes, yes!
BM: Do you like it?
J: It was delicious! Plus it was a real bucket list!
C: Yay ticked!
BM: What about the food? Have you tried the food?
C: No, but I’m desperate to try the chilli crab. I love all seafood and everything spicy!
BM: Do you have any dietary restrictions, like you can’t eat spicy food before performing, or anything like that?
J: I mean, spicy food isn’t great for singing..
BM: So is there like a strict rule, like say, no chilli crab before a show?
C: The problem with me is that my appetite probably gets the better of me, and if I really want to eat something, I’ll probably just eat it, and deal with the consequences, but be burping all the way through the show, though it’s probably not very attractive for anyone!
J: Definitely no spicy food…
C: No spicy food… No dairy really. Dairy’s quite bad for the voice…
BM: I never knew that. What’s one funny quirky or interesting pre-show ritual?
C: Pre-show rituals… Um, I really, I swear by Gin Gins (a famous brand of ginger candy)… I always have like a little cough sweet just at like, the five minute call, and it probably doesn’t do anything for my voice, it’s just something I like to do.
J: We have to go through warm up, we have to warm up before the show.
C: Yeah. So we always do warm up with the cast…
J: … and we’ll all have a sing and a dance.
C: I don’t know if there’s anything like I have to do, or else I don’t really feel ready…
J: I have to go to the toilet!
BM: ’cause you’re in a huge costume!
J: Huge costume! No time, no time for toilet trips.
BM: Uh huh.
C: Yeah. I love getting ready for the show, it’s always such an excitement… about how the audiences are gonna be that night… yeah it’s great.
BM: So, the sweets, and then toilet.
C: Yeah, the Gin Gins!
BM: Can you find them in Singapore?
C: Nope but we found these…
J: We found…
C: I’m gonna show you! *scrambles to get her handbag
J: They’re incredible.
BM: Ah they’re in your bag?
C: Yeah we love them! You can get them in like cough syrups, which we get in Chinatown, but you know I’ve never seen these little…J: It’s like a cough sweet version of…
BM: Is it called Pipagao?
C, J: Ah yes!
BM: Ah I know that! I see you got the apple longan one! Have you tried the original?
C: No… Should we try the original?
J: I’ve got the orange ones.
C: Does that taste like the cough syrup?
BM: Yes, yes.
J: Oh we need that.
BM: That’s my favourite.
C: The Pipagao is amazing, I mean we…
J: We swear by it.
BM: I love Pipagao too!
C: We always buy it in Chinatown, so we can like stock up loads on these, before going back.
BM: Ah, the witches love Pipagao!
C, J: Yeah!
BM: Let’s talk about the show. Carly you play the adorable Glinda. Is there a secret to being so effervescent every single night on stage?
C: Sleep and rest, and maybe a coffee or two. She’s an amazing character to play, she’s super bright and fun, and a fantastic character to delve into every night. I don’t know, I always… I think…
J: You’re naturally bubbly.
C: I think I’m quite naturally like that, but also you know, I really feed off the audience. If we have a great, really responsive audience, you know, that really gives me such a buzz, and yeah, as soon as I step on stage, as soon as I come down in that bubble in the opening, I’m literally, like on cloud nine, I’m having the best time ever, and yeah, I pinch myself every night, I’m doing it, and that’s really what gives me the buzz, and what keeps me effervescent, as you say.
BM: You mentioned sleep and rest. How many hours of sleep do you try to get?
C: At least eight, I like eight hours sleep at night.
J: I… try for nine.
BM: I try for ten.
J: I love it. I love ten.
BM: Considering how this year is Wicked’s tenth anniversary, we can all agree that it’s truly an enduring and endearing show. What do you is so special about Wicked that resonates so well with audiences all over the world?
J: I think it works because audiences can relate to it. Ultimately, these women… you know, it’s unusual for a musical to be led by two females. And I think people feel empowered by it. They feel powerful watching it, inspired. You know, they strive to do what these women do, to fight for what they believe in.
C: And I think audiences are so wowed by the spectacle, the adventure, the fantasy, the magic, you know, and Oz has been a fascination, for a long, since the Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, and there’s definitely… I don’t rule out the fact that there’s a fascination in Oz, and that’s the reason people are so intrigued by Wicked, because they want to know, what happened before? What happened before Dorothy arrived?
J: And also you know, the main theme, of friendship, everyone can relate with that, and this beautiful journey they watch these characters go on, it’s something special.
C: That’s what lies at the heart of Wicked, the true core…
C, J: … is the friendship between these two women.
C: It’s so touching.
BM: For Jacky, has playing Elphaba over the years given you an insight into how it’s like for some people who might feel different, or might perhaps not fit into the mainstream society’s definition of normal?
J: Absolutely. You know, Elphaba has emerald green skin, and she is different, and for everyone to look at you, and go”oh she’s weird”, you know, and, and pass comments, it can be hurtful, and it can be discriminating, but, it empowers her. She’s so sure of who she is, you know? She’s intelligent, she’s bright, she’s quick-witted. I think she uses her humour to overcome her insecurities. And that’s how she tells her story, it’s through humour. Yeah, it is hard to play. But everyone is unique in their own right, and I think the show tells that story beautifully, you know? Everyone can be accepted for who they are, no matter…
BM: No matter how different you are?
J: No matter what, no matter how different you are. Everyone can be accepted in this society, especially in this day and age.
BM: What’s your favourite prop, if you could take home one from the set?
C: Oh the prop? Oh it has to be her wand.
J: Mine has to be my broom.
C: The wand is Glinda’s best accessory. It’s like a bag for her, it’s like a bracelet…
BM: Do you get to keep it after the show?
C: I wish. *bursts into laughters, not the first time in the interview, but probably the loudest
C: I’ll maybe try, at the end of the run though, I’ll maybe try and steal it!
BM: What’s your favourite moment in the show?
C: There’s a beautiful moment, and I think we both share and have the same love for it… It’s called the Elphaba dance.
J: It’s the first time that Elphaba has ever, in her whole life, been accepted or welcomed into a group. And it’s such a tender moment.
C: Yeah it’s the first time as well that Glinda, does the right thing, almost. It’s the first time that she lets go of her trying to be the public persona, you know trying to make everyone like her, and she just does what is right at that time. It’s the first time you see them connect… It’s a really lovely moment.
J: Yeah you can hear a pin drop.
C: You can. It’s one of those moments, where there’s, it’s like, that sort of tension, and pause…
J: Yeah, and then we danced. It’s gorgeous. I get quite choked up on it sometimes, it’s beautiful.
BM: What about your favourite songs to perform in the show?
J: My favourite song to perform in the show is definitely No Good Deed. It’s Elphaba’s peak. She’s let go of her everything now. She’s said, it’s okay, if this is how you’re going to, you know, criticise me, then okay, so be it. And musically, the score is so thrilling and so exciting, and I love the peaks and troughs of No Good Deed. By the end she’s just, she’s let loose.
C: I really, really love the finale. It’s one of my most favourite moments, because I can’t see Elphaba at that point, but I can always like sense where she is, and we are almost like, like looking…
J:… at the same thing.
C: Yeah, looking at the same thing. Looking at each other. Yeah, it’s another beautiful moment, and the music is just gorgeous. It’s the finale, after For Good, and it’s the final thing that we sing together.
J: Yeah. I do love For Good.
C: Oh For Good is a beautiful song. And again, yeah, a really special moment in the show.
BM: What’s the one thing you love the most about working on Wicked?
C: Just being on stage every night, and getting to perform that, I suppose.
J: I think for me I love the score, and I love the music, and getting to sing those show-stopping songs, night after night, it’s just a dream come true.
C: Yeah, same for me. I went to see the show when I was 17, and it was the first West End show I ever saw. Yeah, I’ve dreamt of playing Glinda one day, so this is literally a dream come true.
C: So, coming down in that bubble, I suppose that’s it… Coming down in that bubble every night, in that iconic dress, and singing that opening number, it’s literally like… “What am I doing? This is crazy!” So yeah it’s wonderful.
BM: So even when you watched your first Wicked show at 17, you knew you wanted to be Glinda?
C: Yeah. I remember crying at the end of Defying Gravity. The first time I ever heard Jacky sing Defying Gravity in rehearsal room, I literally, I was sobbing again, and it just brought me back to that moment, when I was 17… And here we are… It’s amazing, amazing working alongside Jacky…
BM: If you could talk to your respective characters, what advice would you give them?
J: Again, I think I’ll just ask for advice, I’ll be like “Elphaba, what would you do?” I’ll probably say to Elphaba not to be so hot-headed, but that’s what makes her her, and that’s what makes her so feisty and so enticing.
C: I’ll tell Glinda to not judge a book by its cover, and to learn that sooner, because she does learn eventually, but just yeah, “Get there quicker Glinda!”
BM: Lastly, do you have any words of advice for kids, or aspiring bubbas, who dream of being in the musical theatre industry when they grow up?
J: Yeah, I think, um, never give up, and you know, always go for your dreams, especially in this industry. It’s hard, it’s a difficult industry to work in, but if you’ve got ambition, and drive, then nothing can stop you.
C: A lot of it is also down to talent and luck, and also being at the right place at the right time. And of course, a little bit of luck goes a long way. But you know, you make your own luck. And we are both very, very lucky to be where we are today. Apart from that, train, you know? Go to as many singing, dancing, and acting classes as you possibly can, and watch people. I find watching theatre… you can learn so much from watching some of these performances.
J: Yeah. Be a sponge.
BM: Be a sponge.
C: Yeah, be a sponge, take it all in.
Duration: 29 September – 16 October 2016
Venue: MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands
- Tuesday to Friday – 8pm
- Saturday – 2pm & 8pm
- Sunday – 1pm & 6pm