The South Australian amateur premiere of Wicked kicks off at the Arts theatre on the 7th of July and with only a few rehearsals remaining before opening night, performers Dianne K Lang and Kat Sachse are filled with both excitement and trepidation.
“It’s terrifying… there’s a lot of expectation out there!” says Di “But, we have an amazing cast”.
Di is playing the role of Elphaba, the green witch who becomes an outcast and later the better-known Wicked Witch of the West. Kat plays Glinda the good witch. The premise of the show finds the two girls meeting as teenagers and becoming close friends.
Producer/Director, Matt Byrne announced the auditions for the well-known musical two months before they were scheduled to take place.
“It’s been a long time, because auditions were back in December” Kat recalls.
“It’s all coming together now… seeing everyone practicing in costumes [makes] it feel more together.”
Kat had success on the 2014 season of The Voice which, along with her band commitments, has meant significant time away from the theatrical stage.
“I haven’t done a musical in a couple of years.” Kat says.
“It’s one of those roles that I’ve always wanted to do, but I always psych myself out of auditions.”
Di feels very much the same way. In fact she almost didn’t go for the role, believing that if she didn’t get it she was unlikely to get another shot at it. “It was actually Inara, my daughter, who said ‘Mum you have to do this, you have to audition’.” It was that encouragement that gave her the push she needed.
“It is a really important role for me” Di continues, “And it’s kind of hard to explain to people how personal it is, because it brings back a lot of childhood memories. I remember being a young child, about 7, and I remember my mum letting me stay up late to watch the Wizard of Oz. She sat me down and said ‘Now there is a really scary witch in this movie, and she scared me so much when I was a child that I hid under the seats in the cinema’… so I prepared myself for that. When she came on the screen, I distinctly remember thinking – yeah she’s mean, but why is she so angry? And I remember thinking, just in my innocent child mind, what’s happened to her to make her so angry with everyone?”
“On a subconscious level I think that stayed with me most of my life. I have recently gone through my [late] parents’ home and found all my books from my childhood; and they are all with this recurring theme of misunderstood witches… it just struck a chord with me.” Di explains.
“When Wicked was written and I discovered the musical it was like these were the answers I’d be searching for my entire life.”
Ironically Di gave Kat the extra encouragement she needed to step up and audition too. “What actually gave me an extra push to audition”, explains Kat, “Is that Di… said, ‘Do you want to run some lines with me before auditions?’, so I went over to her house, we ran some lines together and sang some songs together, and I [thought] I really want this role now!”
Kat and Di have actually worked on stage together before in a performance of Les Misérables, but Kat played Cosette and Dianne, Fantine, which meant they never spent any actual time performing opposite each other.
“This is the first time I’m actually onstage with Dianne, because she was my mum!” Kat says; after Les Misérables Kat and Dianne kept in contact.
“We became really good friends, and she has so much experience, she is a bit of a mentor.”
Kat finds it really easy to play Elphaba’s best friend, since she and Di are such good friends off stage. “The friendship is not something that has to be manufactured or faked… it’s genuine.” Kat explains.
Kat connects with Glinda in a few different ways and draws parallels between her own bravado and insecurities and the ones of her character. The two have spent a lot of time researching their respective roles. They have both read the book and use it as the basis of their characterisations, “The musical is quite different to the book, it has a lot more humour in it and is family friendly, but the characters of Elphaba and Glinda remain the same, they are fluffed up a bit for the musical, but the core of their character and their relationship is the same as in the book” Dianne says.
“We talk after each rehearsal about the characters and the motivations behind each scene.” Kat explains.
“It’s going to be different because we don’t have the million dollar budget [of a professional show], but what Matt has come up with will be really exciting to see”.
Byrne’s production is really focussing on the characters and their friendship.
“It’s about making sure that the character arc is convincing” Kat continues.
“She does go through quite a big journey – she starts off a bit ignorant, and it’s not until she befriends Elphaba that she realises there is more to life than just getting what you want. It’s not until the end, when she’s lost everyone, that she realises she needs to make sacrifices for the greater good. In the end she ends up sacrificing the love of her life and her best friend.”
Kat is a huge fan of the show too, and she isn’t afraid to admit it.
“I am following all of the [Wicked] blogs on Tumblr” she says, “It’s a bit embarrassing to admit”. She has also seen several versions of the show.
It isn’t the first time Kat or Di have worked with Matt Byrne either. In fact Matt is responsible for introducing Di to her husband Jeff! Kat has also been in a couple of Matt’s shows.
“I did Hairspray and Phantom with him” she remembers.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for Matt” Kat says. “He just gets so excited about a production and it is one of the reasons I enjoy working with him, he has such a passion for this show and it’s infectious. He gives us a little pep talk before each rehearsal.”
Both performers are highly complementary of each other and their fellow cast and production team too. “The show is brilliantly cast, we are really lucky” Di says.
The character of Boq is played by Zak Vasiliou. “He is absolutely wonderful” says Kat, “I think he was born to play this role, he’s got the voice of an angel. I’m really excited for Adelaide to see him showcase his talent because he is only 19!”
Di agrees adding, “I swear he has munchkin D.N.A in there somewhere, because he is the best Boq I have ever seen in my life.”
On the production side Anne Williams has been working on the girls’ costumes. “She is an amazing woman” Kat says. Di adds that the costumes Anne has made are simply “amazing”.
Wicked is a big show for the two lead roles and will require a lot of stamina from both Kat and Di.
“In terms of singing it is something that I’m comfortable to do, but the acting side of things is definitely the biggest challenge because this is probably the biggest role I’ve ever played” Kat explains.
Di says “I’m taking each day as it comes. I’m just focussing on the story, I’m focussing on the character, I think the pressure would just get to me if I didn’t do that. I do feel a lot of pressure and I just have to block that out!”
When asked if Elphaba will soar 15 feet into the air Di kept the secrets of the show safely locked away. “I can’t tell you that, you’ll have to come and see it!” Di exclaims.
The show opens on the 7th of July for two weeks at the Arts Theatre in the Adelaide CBD and then for a further two weeks at the Shedley Theatre in Elizabeth.
Admission is $40 Adults and $35 for Concessions, with Group Discount prices of $38 /$33 for 10 or more. Wicked Cheap Nights will be $30 on July 12 at the Arts and July 20 and 27 at the Shedley. (Booking fees apply.)