Not so wicked witch looks to the future
Two years is enough for anyone to spend as a singing witch in a West End musical, and now Belfast singer Rachel Tucker is looking for new challenges
SHORTLY BEFORE 5pm, high in the Apollo Theatre near London’s Victoria Station, Rachel Tucker opens her dressing-room door, munching salad, with a bottle of water in hand.
In two years, Rachel Tucker has appeared before hundreds of thousands of fans in Wicked, now in its sixth year on the London stage, with £125m (€155m) taken at the box-office.
“I have to drink two of these every day,” she says, pointing to a 1.5-litre bottle of water. “I am on my second one. It is more or less athletic standard without the physical training.” Tucker pushes cushions aside on the couch to make room, and points happily to the pile of toys, chocolates and other gifts left by adoring fans.
And the fans do adore. Every night, scores of young girls hang outside the stage door to chat with the show’s cast, while regulars queue from dawn to get tickets.
Now in its eight year since its first performance on Broadway, the musical’s plot begins before Dorothy’s arrival from Kansas to the land of the Wizard of Oz and continues after she goes back.
In the original Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West eventually gets her comeuppance, but in Wicked, the witch, known here as Elphaba, is a misunderstood victim.
For many in the audience, the green-skinned Elphaba is not just a musical character on a fantasy stage; instead, she is a guide through turbulent teenage years.
“I have had so many people who are ill with eating disorders, like anorexia; or who are lesbian, gay, who have just come out,” she says, forking potato around her bowl as she speaks.
“By watching me and Elphaba it has given them the courage to stand up and be what they are and not be shy about what makes them what they are and just accept it.
“School kids absolutely adore it; teachers bring them in their droves because it touches on bullying, being picked on, on singling people out. It is about strength of character, it is about justice and believing in what you say,” she says.
Looking towards letters from fans on her mirrored counter-top, the Belfast-born Tucker says enthusiastically: “They always identify with Elphaba. They see Glinda [the show’s other main character] as the popular girl, the girl who has everything, the girl who could be the bully, the ringleader.
“But actually the person who comes out on top is Elphaba. They don’t need parents, or teachers to tell them, they have got it front of them and they weep, they absolutely weep.