Magical musical Wicked comes to Wales Millennium Centre this month. MARK REES caught up with good witch Emily Tierney and wicked witch Nikki Davis-Jones ahead of the show.
The experience of seeing award-winning musical Wicked can be a life-changing occasion for many, transforming normal theatre goers into obsessive, travelling fans to rival those of One Direction and Star Wars.
But it isn’t just the public that are affected – it seems the performers fall under its spell just as easily.
“When I first saw the set in Manchester I cried!” admits Nikki Davis-Jones, who stars as Elphaba the green witch in the new touring production.
“They were testing some of the lights on Emerald City, and it was just so magical and sparkly.”
Starring alongside Nikki is Emily Tierney as the good witch Glinda, and who was also blown away by the scale of the production.
“I make quite an entrance, which I didn’t think would be possible on tour,” she says of her character who descends onto the stage in a giant bubble.
“I asked them, am I going to have a flying bubble? How are they going to take it with them?
“But they’ve done it. I’ll be flying into Wales in a bubble!” she laughs.
“I use it at the end as well. After the last note, I’m just hung up there in my bubble, with the lights out, looking down on everyone. It’s a really amazing moment.”
The story itself is a contemporary twist on L. Frank Baum’s Hollywood-adapted favourite but, as Emily points out, this isn’t necessarily the Oz from your childhood.
“We take our characters in a totally different direction from the Wizard of Oz,” she says.
“It’s an amazing story of friendship, and at the core of it is a really important message about not judging people by the colour of their skin.
“Plus there’s so much to hear and see, with things going on and flying monkeys and everything.”
Nikki says that she has made the role of Elphaba her own, but originally learned the ropes alongside Rachel Tucker, the West End’s longest running wicked witch.
“I didn’t just want to copy someone else,” she says. “You do have to fit in with the character, but I think as an actor you can bring your own thing to the role. ”
And to cope with the rigours of the role, Nikki has also adapted a daily exercise routine of yoga and running to help get her through the gruelling schedule.
“It’s really hard work,” she says.
“Physically and vocally, it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. For the whole three hours I don’t leave the stage. There’s no let up. There’s some intense singing, and the songs just get bigger and better.
“It’s one of the toughest roles I’ll ever play . . . but I love it!”
Emily agrees, adding that they have to be careful to look after themselves.
“I’m so lucky to be doing this on stage every single night, but we have to be very health conscious,” she says.
“Singing big songs every night means there’s no going out drinking. But we both had a good time doing that in our early 20s, so we don’t mind!”
One of those big songs includes Emily’s showpiece number, which will be familiar to many, even to those who haven’t seen the production.
“The most famous song that I do is Defying Gravity, which a lot of people know already from the X Factor and places,” she adds.
“People come with an expectation of it, but it’s quite liberating to put your own spin on it.”
Wicked arrives in Wales on March 12, and both Emily and Nikki are looking forward to spending over a month here.
“I was there for a day during the Rent tour last year and the people were absolutely fab. But when you spend a month somewhere you can really live in a city and experience it,” says Nikki.
And for Emily it will be an entirely new experience.
“It’s really exciting coming to a new city, and putting the show on in a different space,” she says.
“I’ve got lots of friends in Wales, and we’ve got Zoë George in the cast whose a Welsh speaker, so she’ll be showing us around the place.”
Wales Millennium Centre, Wednesday, March 12 - Saturday, April 26, 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm mats available.