“Manila deserves another run,” says Lunchbox Theatrical Productions producer and CEO James Cundall. After “thrillifying” Filipino audiences in 2014, the theater outfit with its international touring cast returns on Feb 2 for a new season of Wicked, which is now extended until March 12 at The Theater at Solaire.
As expected, what happens behind the curtains is as magical as the show itself. We have proof as GIST snooped around backstage and caught up with the Wicked cast, producers and directors. Here are 10 things we discovered:
1. Keeping up with costume changes is dizzying.
It’s a grand spectacle, with costumes rivaling that of The Phantom of the Opera’s. Backstage they have what they call a Wardrobe Village, a long alley of costumes and wigs for the entire ensemble.
2. Everything is a little off-kilter.
Like the quirky characters that populate the Land of Oz, the set is designed to be imperfect. The big clock (with a thirteenth hour) serving as one of the backdrops is skewed towards the left, for example. Even Glinda the Good’s tiara never rests straight on her head.
3. Everything is fresh.
Wicked premiered 13 years ago. As such, the production team wants to constantly keep it fresh, from the dialogues to the choreography and technical aspects of the show. They’re using the most up-to-date sound and flying systems (which means there’s more flying on stage!). It takes 13 trucks, 18 containers and 5 weeks to ship all the set pieces, costumes, equipment, and props.
4. 3,000 actors auditioned for this tour.
Out of them, 31 made it.
5. Jacqueline Hughes is as tough as Elphaba.
Jacqueline Hughes was a standby for Elphaba in the original Wicked UK tour, and a swing and understudy for Elphaba and Madame Morrible in the Wicked production at the Apollo Victoria. Safe to say that she’s meant to be in this show and play Elphie — they both share key qualities, anyway. “I’m from Scotland,” says Hughes, pointing out that it’s one of the reasons that she’s brave like her character. Channeling Elphie, she adds, “Don’t be scared of who you are. Be proud of who you are and what you believe in. If you have a different color of skin, belief, and shape, that’s okay.”
6. Carly Anderson has more similarities with Glinda than she cares to admit.
The actor confesses as much. When we asked her what Glinda might say to ladies and gentlemen her age today, it’s simply and aptly, “Don’t discriminate.” A little trivia: Carly Anderson previously played Kate Monster / Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q — you know, that other smash musical that beat Wicked for Best Musical in the 2004 Tony Awards?
7. Bradley Jaden, who plays Fiyero, didn’t think he could pull off the dancing.
Bradley Jaden has a pretty impressive resume. He was Enjorlas in the Les Misérables 30th anniversary cast and starred in other musical hits like Ghost the Musical and Shrek the Musical. But despite all that, he wasn’t quite confident with his feet. “Trying to dance as well as the rest of the ensemble — we have such an incredible amount of talent — (is difficult). Fiyero is very much out of my comfort zone,” he says.
8. Fiyero wants you to be honest.
“What’s exciting about playing Fiyero is he’s challenged physically and mentally by these two incredibly powerful women and he just goes with his gut. And so sometimes you might get hurt,” continues Jaden (bear in mind that Fiyero is the devil-may-care guy between Elphie and Glinda). “But if you’re honest to yourself, that’s the best way (to be).”
9. Emily Shaw likes saying, “Shut up!”
Emily Shaw plays Nessarose, Elphaba’s little sister. She’s an interesting character that unfortunately doesn’t get much time on stage. Her favorite line? “Oh Elphaba, Shut up!” she says, releasing so much emotion. “I love saying that,” she continues, laughing. “It’s something I won’t ever say as Emily, so it’s quite nice to do that. Especially if I’m feeling a bit grumpy. I let it all out.”
10. The Filipinos are an awesome audience.
“It’s an absolute joy performing in Manila. The audience is amazing. Right from the very first sentence people are laughing along,” shares resident director Leigh Constantine, who can’t contain her happiness after the success of their opening performance on Feb 2. “Every type of audience has its own character. I love that we get to tour internationally; we get to know and love each city and all the inhabitants as well. We’re really looking forward to coming to Manila because (we’ve heard about the wonderful) atmosphere and (everyone’s) enthusiasm.”
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Wicked features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and is based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire and adapted for the stage by Winnie Holzman. Musical staging is by Wayne Cilento and the production is directed by Joe Mantello.
The Manila engagement is presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila. The show runs from February 2 to 12 March, 2017 at The Theatre at Solaire , Parañaque City. Tickets are available at all Ticketworld outlets and online at ticketworld.com.ph.
(Special thanks to Concertus Manila and MAC Cosmetics — make-up provider for Wicked — for the assistance.)