CLOC have made the world green with envy with this year’s production of Wicked, the first outside of the professional tours that have run for years around the world, since opening on Broadway in October 2003.
They’re not sick of us asking about it yet – Rosa McCarty and Emily McKenzie will be the first performers to step into the iconic roles of Elphaba and Glinda in Wicked in the non-professional theatre community in all of Australia.
“There are moments when it hits me that Emily and I will be the first outside of professional circles to be portraying these iconic characters! As incredible as they were, I think one of the most liberating aspects is that we are not constrained to recapitulate previous productions. There’s a certain level of creative freedom which is really enjoyable” says McCarty on going green as Elphaba.
“I feel incredibly blessed, and to be honest I’m still pinching myself that it’s actually happening. In saying that, there are certain pressures that come with being ‘the first’ as people have a lot of expectations of how Glinda should be. Everyone’s heard the original cast recording a trillion times and seen the show professionally and the pressure to live up to the standard of those performances always sits in my chest,” says McKenzie on stepping into Glinda’s sparkly shoes with CLOC.
“In saying that, we have been given a lot of room to develop and create our own interpretation of the characters, which has been lots of fun, and I hope that I can avoid any Chenoweth-isms and establish my own twist of the role” she says.
No two shows are the same for McCarty, who returns to the stage in her second leading lady role, following her stint as Mary Poppins with CLOC last year.
“This is yet another immensely rewarding and challenging role. The physicality, accent, and vocal style couldn’t be any more contrasting (to Poppins)! And yet there is so much about these women that is similar” she says on her roles as Mary Poppins and Elphaba.
“Both characters do not fit within society’s expectations; they are fiercely independent, deeply empathetic, passionate about social justice, intelligent, and emotionally complex. What really drives them is absolute commitment to their ethical principles – no matter the cost – even if it means sacrificing their own ‘happiness’” she says.
“Aaaaah, Glinda. She’s a funny one!” McKenzie ruminates on her character and the way she relates, and doesn’t relate to the role.
“She is incredibly entitled, arrogant, ditsy, dim, and short tempered. In saying that, she also feels deeply, wears her heart on her sleeve and is very loyal when she knows her trust is reciprocated. I relate to her in so many ways. Some of them good, and some of them not so good!”
McKenzie hasn’t worked with CLOC for 11 years, since their production of Jekyll and Hyde.
“I am just so happy to be back with this exceptionally organized and professional group of people. I am so confident to know that I will be looked after in all elements of the show, it feels wonderful to be a part of such a clever and talented group of people”.
They’re both Geminis, both have Pomeranians, and have a similar approach to performing. McCarty first saw Wicked in 2008 when she moved to Melbourne and had just started in musical theatre. seeing Elphaba as a dream role in a wonderfully funny, moving and inspiring musical. For McKenzie, it was part of a Broadway compilation concert in 2005, and falls more in love with the book and score each time they rehearse it, not really connecting with the show until she was part of the cast.
To prepare for the roles, McCarty has been working on the vocals for Elphaba since November, and both read or reread the original Gregory Maguire text over the summer.
“There are so many facets to preparation. I’d call it ‘immersion’! I talk through the themes of the novel and the show with anyone who will listen! The preparation, research, and discussion never stops” says McCarty.
“Elphaba has many qualities I admire and can connect with. She responds and reacts to situations with absolute clarity in her motivation. She stands up for what she believes in and is never corrupted or makes concessions in order to succeed or please others. The kindness she displays is genuine and never strategic. Don’t we all want to be a bit more like that? I think that is the reason for her appeal with audiences” she says”
“The role is rather physically demanding so I have been running a fair bit to maintain a good level of fitness! I am also pretty useless at learning lines so I have been recording them and listening in the car trips a lot!” adds McKenzie.
The rehearsal period has been intense but rewarding.
“The first six-eight weeks are fast and furious, which then gives you the luxury of having four weeks to polish. Two of those weeks are spent on the set at the CLOC Works factory with most of the technical elements. With dedicated time to polish and familiarisation with the set, CLOC make sure that they give their performers every chance to succeed. That’s one of the many reasons I want to keep working again with CLOC – the attention to detail, support, and a truly wonderful sense of team and family” says McCarty on working with CLOC.
“Glinda is a much bigger role than I had anticipated and I’ve been required at most rehearsals, which I love. I have made a lot of new friends, and I am in awe of their true talent and dedication to the show. The ensemble in this show is absolutely incredible and I am often reminded to lift my game by watching them rehearse and give so much to their individual characters and performances” says McKenzie.
Go and see what all of their hard work and preparation has been about when Wicked opens at the National Theatre in St Kilda on May 6th.
Tickets are available for purchase through http://cloc.org.au/buy-tickets/