It takes 30 minutes of heavy and arduous makeup each day to transform Jacqueline Hughes into the Wicked Witch but that is the easy part.
The hard part is giving flesh and voice to Elphaba, the other key protagonist in the musical Wicked.
“It’s tough to maintain the high registers of her voice day after day, so I take lots of sleep and I keep myself hydrated,” Hughes says.
Her opposite number is Carly Anderson who plays Glinda the Good Witch.
Anderson is fascinated by the challenges and pressure during group rehearsals in which they prepare for no less than 20 songs.
The musical is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of The West.
The story is told from the perspective of the witches but is mostly a celebration of friendship.
“Glinda is an adorable character with beauty, passion, love and ambition,” Anderson says.
“However, the popular schoolgirl is not flawless and thanks to Elphaba, she is enlightened. They watch out for each other and grow up together.”
The plot does not follow the tradition of good and evil depicted in fairy tales.
“Instead of exploring the essence of evil, the story centers around the theme of growth and acceptance, especially friendship,” Hughes says.
Elphaba was born with green skin and endures discrimination for being different. She constantly pines for acceptance and love from her family and younger sister.
The song The Wizard And I captures the range of emotions she is trapped in.
Anderson says her favorite part is the ballroom dance scene where Glinda has tricked Elphaba into wearing an awful pointy black hat.
She realizes her cruelty and makes amends by dancing with Elphaba.
“This is the first time the proud girl finally does something right, and this also marks the start of their friendship,” Anderson says.
The musical features the songs of Stephen Schwartz, a famous American lyricist and composer whose credits include Pocahontas and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.
At a press conference in Hong Kong, the two leads gave a preview of some of the songs including the crowd favorite For Good.
“No one is perfect and there must be something one might not like about his or her own self,” Hughes says.
“The key is to learn to love yourself and accept the differences or your own imperfections and those of others.”
The musical’s universal theme is certain to strike a chord with Asian audiences as it did in the West, with a stunning stage, moving music and elaborate costumes providing a perfect backdrop.
The show opens on Dec. 8, 2016 and runs until Jan. 8, 2017 at the Lyric Theatre in the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 22.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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