We only have several more weeks before “Wicked” is back in Manila and the international tour’s resident director, Leigh Constantine, talked to Team TFM about what we can expect. There’s more magic, more spectacle but it’s still the story we all know and love.
Can you tell us more about how different this production is from all other versions of the show?
The thing with this production is, it’s the full Broadway / West End production so we haven’t lost any elements of the big production. It’s not like, “We’re going on tour, let’s make it smaller and take away elements.” What we did was start from scratch as a brand new piece so what happened is that we’ve actually got additional elements.
As technology has changed, we now have a fantastic flying system. All we had to do is make it feel magical. We have more monkeys flying, which is amazing. And we also have–when spells start to happen in act 1, we have the opportunity to add more magical flying in there.
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Can you talk more about the production being a ‘brand new piece’?
What we’ve found actually, is that because we’re the newest production, we’ve got all the benefit of past productions. We’re able to add extra, little splashes that make it more live, more relevant for today. We’ve been able to implement them because we are a brand new production.
We have all the technical elements that you’d expect from any other production in the world, except we’ve been allowed to start again. We have slightly more, slightly different choreography. Again, it’s just us going “What can we do to make this feel more magical?” Other than that, we haven’t lost anything.
How do you make this tour feel fresh to new and returning audiences alike?
Every year, the director comes in with slightly new thoughts. It’s very usual for a show that’s been running a long time just to do the same thing over and over and over again, but we’re very keen in ways to make it relevant because the story is relevant to people. It’s a story about love, loss, loss of friendship, finding new things, finding your confidence. It’s all very relevant to everybody all the time, no matter what your age or experience.
People will come out having taken something new from the piece. I think because–one more time, it’s still the Wicked everyone knows and loves– but I do believe anyone who comes into this production will come away finding something new, or made them feel something new, or maybe they notice something within the story that they never noticed before because we believe that the storytelling is so clear and clean and everyone can relate to it.
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Which parts of the show do you love, or you think the audiences should really look out for?
It’s interesting with the show is that there’s so many moments within it, but they’re all so different. One of my favorite numbers, actually from a visual point of view and the choreography, is “Loathing”, which is the number where obviously all the students are going up against Elphaba because they don’t quite understand her yet. It’s so physical, and the way [the ensemble] moves together, it’s everybody on stage working as a team. I find that exciting, electric, and the music is so good.
When we go to “One Short Day”, the spectacle and the detail and the color and all the bits together again, I think, creates a whole new world each time. Of course, “Defying Gravity”, too. For me, it’s not even when she flies up into the air and she starts singing those big notes. It’s right at the beginning when the music starts, literally every time [you hear it] it makes your hair stand up. It’s almost like you can feel the magic that’s created. That magic is palpable, it makes you want to hold your breath.
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There’s an anti-bullying campaign that is running with this production of Wicked, does this focus affect how this show is made more relevant?
Not deliberately. It’s very important to have [the bullying], and not gloss over that story line. It’s not done specifically, but a very important part of Wicked is the thought of “for good”. Making sure you can change the world ‘for good’, you know? We’ve all been put in this planet, what if each and everyone one of us have the opportunity to change something for the better?
Maybe, from watching the show somebody might see someone being bullied and have that little thing going in them that go help, or see someone sitting alone and maybe take the time to go over and ask them to see if they’re alright. We don’t deliberately go, “this is for bullying”, but it’s a very important aspect we have going. You don’t always know the full story. Maybe take the time to find out that person’s story and see where that takes you.
Do you make any kind of tweaks depending on where the tour is at?
Actually, that’s a very good point. Some productions do depending on the show. But I think Wicked is a piece that’s universal anyway, so we haven’t deliberately changed anything because I do generally think that the message within the story and the storyline is so universal. I think anybody in any corner of the world will have experienced that or seen it happen, so we’re very lucky with that.
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Have you found that what works in London doesn’t work in Asia? Are there elements of the show that different audiences respond to?
That’s actually what’s going to be interesting for us: to see how the audiences do take it. I must admit, we were sitting [during Wicked Singapore’s preview], “Well, I wonder how this will go” and I think we’re fairly confident that the audience will have a fantastic time because we have great faith in this piece.
We don’t know yet how people will react [to the show]. Are people happy to interact enough that they will laugh, because some people will be very polite and whisper to themselves and in the end will tell us if they liked it or not, but we had no idea how [the show] will translate. From the audiences that we’ve had so far, the answer is exceptionally well. We’re really pleased.
But yeah, we just don’t know. Sitting in the audience and hearing the reaction when one of the bombshells drop right at the end of the show– that piece of information the audience suddenly got– literally the audience would gasp, which was amazing. Some of the reactions to some of the characters are stronger than I’ve heard anywhere, which really meant the audience identify and understood what was going on, and was very happy to go on the journey with us. We’ve actually got better reactions here than we’ve had anywhere.
Wait til you get to Manila!
I know! We can’t wait!
You can purchase tickets here.