The first time Scottish-born stage actress Jacqueline Hughes was cast in the Broadway and West End hit “Wicked,” she played Swing. Now years later, she has found herself taking on the much-coveted role of Elphaba, the green-skinned oddball and underdog, and Wicked Witch of the West in-the-making.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be with ‘Wicked’ for five and a half years now. I joined the London Company in the beginning of 2011. I’ve had a huge journey with ‘Wicked,’ with Elphaba being the ultimate goal,” said Hughes, who will be gracing the Manila stage with the rest of the “Wicked” cast early next year.
Performing alongside Hughes is Carly Anderson, who will be playing Glinda, the darling of Oz and the sorcery school’s resident popular girl.
A deconstruction and onstage reinvention of L. Frank Baum’s, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “Wicked” was inspired by Gregory Maguire’s best-selling novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” It has become an absolute hit, with over 100 major awards under its belt.
“‘Wicked’ was the first West End musical I saw when I was 17,” said Anderson. “I cried pretty much through the whole way of Act I and toward the end of Act II as well. I remember telling myself, ‘I really want to play that part one day.’ I never thought it would actually happen.”
The satisfaction goes beyond entertaining audiences.
“It’s amazing to be able to teach people that it’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to have different opinions and different views,” Anderson said.
Hughes seconded this, stressing “Wicked” was all about embracing individuality—and rightly so as Elphaba is pretty much the production’s poster girl for misfits and eccentrics.
“Elphaba is obviously green and obviously different, so what I admire most about her is that she’s tough,” said Hughes. “She knows she’s unique and it empowers her. She’s proud to be different. What is different? Who defines that? I think it’s a matter of everyone else accepting.
“Elphaba is a dreamer, especially in her younger years in the University. And me being a Pisces, I am definitely a dreamer.”
Hughes used to be a standby for Elphaba in the original “Wicked” UK Tour, and an understudy for the same character in 2011, when she also performed as Swing at Apollo Victoria Theater.
“Now that I’ve managed to have her [Elphaba] all to myself, I feel very fortunate,” Hughes said.
Anderson said she felt just as lucky, describing each performance as surreal.
“Every evening, being onstage and doing the show, is a ‘pinch-me’ moment,” she said.
Like Hughes, Anderson sees herself in the character she takes on.
“There are lots of personality traits that I have in common with Glinda, some of which I will not admit to,” the actress coyly said. “She’s intensely ambitious, and I think I definitely share that with her. Her being innocent and extremely honest
—I adore that about her. And I probably have the same love of shoes as she does.”
“Wicked” is set to bewitch Manila audiences in February 2017, three years after its Philippine premiere in 2014. It will be holding a limited run at The Theatre at Solaire starting Feb. 2 as part of an international tour. —CONTRIBUTED
The Manila engagement of “Wicked” is presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Concertus Manila. For tickets and inquiries, call 8919999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.