Wicked the Musical at Home of the Arts (HOTA)
Wicked tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba. Taylor speaks to the girl behind the green, Samantha Dodemaide, about what we can expect, what Elphaba can teach us, and why Wicked continues to capture hearts more than 15 years on. Read the full interview below:
First of all, congratulations on getting the role of Elphaba!
Thanks! It’s actually a bit of a 180 for me. I actually did a production of Wicked at Universal Studios Japan about ten years ago, and ever since I did that I’ve been listening to Elphie’s songs and thinking ‘I think I’d like to do that one day’, because I was there as a dancer. So it’s nice to return to the show and have it all in English cause our show was divided into English and Japanese back then, so I’m very excited. One of my closest friends played Elphaba on the Australian Tour, Jemma Rix, and she’s been giving me a lot of great tips.
The famous ‘Green Girl’ – Elphaba – has become an international icon with people around the world flocking to see the blockbuster musical that is Wicked. What does it feel like to be taking on the role of Elphie? Any trepidation about stepping into the big shoes that have filled this role before, or mainly excitement?
Well, it’s a very large role, you know, it’s a very demanding role. So vocally I think it’s very exciting to do that, but I have just come off the back of Evita, where I understudied Tina Arena who played Eva Perón. So at first I thought Elphaba was a huge thing, but then I was introduced to Eva Perón, so I don’t think it will be quite as daunting as Eva, but look, it’s such an iconic character, you know. It’s the typical story of the underdog, my favourite characters to play, the woman who rises above what society puts on her and what people say she can be and she proves them wrong, and I really love those roles, so it’s iconic for a reason. She stands up for the little person, the outcast, and for women as well.
For many people, Elphaba is a dream role in musical theatre. When were you first introduced to Wicked and is Elphaba a role you have wanted to tackle before this opportunity or one that you are now excited to take on?
I probably saw the Australian tour when it first came around about thirteen years ago, where I saw Amanda Harrison in it first, and then of course I saw Jemma then did it in Japan. It wasn’t particularly on my radar straight up, because for quite a few years I was a bit more classic theatre, old school inclined, and I also danced obviously, so it wasn’t one of those bucket list roles for me until I got to observe it when I was a part of the show and I watched Elphaba’s story where I really connected to that element of it as well.
Prior to taking on the role of Elphaba, you recently played Dorothy in the Australian tour of The Wizard of Oz. What has it been like jumping back on to the Yellow Brick Road but on the other side perhaps?
It’s quite ironic, isn’t it? You know when the casting was announced and I posted it on my social media, someone said ‘wait, I’m confused are you the wicked witch or are you Dorothy?’ I love the challenge of going from playing a sixteen year old girl to the wicked witch of the west in this version, so that will be great, and the research that I put in for The Wizard of Oz will really reflect well, because I read a lot about all the characters, from all the different interpretations out there, so it will be great to see another side of Elphaba.
In the first act of Wicked, audiences may not realise but there are some pretty intense songs for Elphaba, one after another after another. Have you had to prepare any differently vocally to take on this challenge?
Yeah, well I think for any role – as I said, with coming off the back of Evita, rehearsing as an understudy for Eva Perón was very challenging for me vocally and I learned a lot watching Jemma Rox as our alternate, and also Tina Arena who played Eva Perón. So I learned a lot from those two women about vocal maintenance, and I think it all comes into preparation; you know, our vocal chords are like muscles, preparing to run a marathon you train in a certain way, so I think my preparation has already started with the songs and just getting my vocal ability up to being able to run those numbers multiple times a day, being able to sing it over and over to really start working that muscle in that way.
Is there a song you are most excited to belt out on stage?
I think I’m probably most excited about No Good Deed. I really think it comes at the – you know, Defying Gravity is a classic, but I thing No Good Deed is really the tip of the mountain for Elphaba. It really exposes so many different side of her and the human element to her where she feels she’s failed, but still determined to keep going. So I really love that, and it’s a pretty great scene.
Elphaba is a social outcast, ostracized for her difference. What character work have you done to create this character for yourself? What is your process in finding the characters you take on?
You know, that’s so interesting. I’ve just been talking to students about this at the moment, about characterisation, and of course a lot of research goes into characters; especially if they have been a real person, like Eva Perón, or if it’s an iconic role, and I suppose Elphaba is one of those iconic roles. I think for every character, they have to be a part if you, and for me personally I have to be able to understand them. You know, I’ve definitely experienced situations of being a social outcast, or having an opinion and not being heard, lots of these things. So I think what I want to find with Elphie is who she is in me, and how I connect to her. It might be in different; obviously I’m not green and I don’t have any powers – that I know of just yet – but I definitely think we can connect. For instance, the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba or Fiyero and Elphaba; you know, I’ve been in love, I’ve had friendships that have not quite been what I expected in the first place, so I think there is so much you can relate to each character and the situation that they are in.
Do you feel that an element of your character stays with you after the show has closed and if so, what do you think will stick with you after finishing your run as Elphaba?
Absolutely. I think it’s amazing how influenced you become by the characters that you play. I’ve never really played an evil character before; I think that would be quite interesting. My partner is also an actor and we often talk about different acting techniques, those who can really embody their characters and those who can leave it behind. I think I’m one who does embody my character quite a lot. I’ve got this great story that I was understudy for Charity Hope Valentine in a tour of Sweet Charity and was lucky enough to take over the role for the last few weeks of the run. My boyfriend came to see the show, and one night I woke up in the middle of the night in full character and asked him to go open the window or something like that, and I was sleep talking as Charity! So it just shows how connected you become to these roles and how much a part of you they become!
I think that Elphaba’s strength and her determination is something that I hope will stick with me, because she defies all odds. She doesn’t just defy gravity, she defies everything and I really love that, because I think often we can result to fear and let fear win, but she doesn’t. Even though we witness the battle that she has with that, she doesn’t let it win and I really admire that in a character
Why do you think Wicked is such an important musical that has continued to captivate audiences around the world for more than 15 years?
Well, everyone loves a story about an outcast; I suppose we can all relate to that in some form. And I think all the characters in the show are very relatable and, you know the message of the show; love and friendship, and I think that relates to our lives very much within society, how do we stand up for the little guy? And I think people can connect to that; you know, how can you defy the giants if you think something is wrong.
Why should audiences come to see this production?
It’s definitely very, very exciting. We get a lot of productions in Australia that have already been done; we call them in the industry the ‘bible shows’ – it comes already written out and you know what you’ve seen on Broadway is what you’re going to see here. And the exciting thing that we have here is that we have an up and coming amazing director, Tim Hill, we also have fresh choreography and new musical direction, so everything is going to be created on us, we’re be telling our story. The score and the book for Wicked is so undeniably incredible, but it’s going to be a never before seen production of it. We’re using a lot of stage mapping, projection displayed on the stage that will take us to different scenes and different places, as opposed to just using set pieces. So I think there are some really exciting elements to it, a great cast that will soon be announced, and a fresh new look that has been a collaborative process.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
New York, absolutely
Dream role to perform?
I’m gonna be boring with this one, I think I’ve already performed them. I used to have lots of dream roles but now I think that they definitely find you. I’ve played roles I never thought I would and I think that they become your dream roles.
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
What’s next for you after this show?
I can’t say just yet, but I do have another show coming up in the future that I’m super excited about and it’s very, very different to Wicked.
Wicked the Musical opens at the Home of the Arts in Surfers Paradise on June 25, 2019. You can get your tickets here.