The Behind-the-Scenes Magic of Wicked
Wicked has been dazzling audiences with its stagecraft for over five years. Just how do they do it? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the magic behind one of the West End’s most beloved musicals.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
One of the crucial elements of the production is Elphaba’s green skin, which causes her to be an outcast in Oz. After trying a number of different types of makeup, including a spray-on paint that impacted original cast member Idina Menzel’s voice and turned everyone and everything she touched green, designers settled on a water-based MAC makeup. They blend together different colours for each actress playing the role, to ensure it works for their specific skin tone. The actress also wears a skin-tight green bodysuit that blends seamlessly with the makeup.
Here Alexia Khadime, the first black actress to play Elphaba, talks about the daily makeup regime:
Elphaba dramatically soars above the stage at the end of Wicked’s signature song, “Defying Gravity.” This spectacular stunt is done without the use of a fly-rig; instead, it uses a custom-made hydraulic lift. The actress playing Elphaba pushes a button, which causes a metal bar to encircle her waist and secure her to the platform. The bar is covered with the same fabric as her dress and the lighting cleverly obscures this movement from the audience. Once the bar is in place, the lift raises Elphaba high above the stage. It makes for a dramatic finish to the first act, leaving the audience wanting more.
The Flying Monkeys appear throughout Wicked, and audiences are stunned when ordinary monkeys sprout wings live on stage. This was one of the most difficult technical effects to achieve, and the creative team went through several drafts before arriving at the current design. The actors playing the monkeys wear brightly coloured bodysuits. A harness is placed below their bodysuits, onto which mechanical wings can be fitted. The actors then have control over the wings to ensure they are released at the right time.
Here the design team talks about the challenges of creating the Flying Monkeys:
The Wonders of Oz
The design team are really the unsung heroes of Wicked. The set, designed by Eugene Lee, is one of the most elaborate in the West End, seamlessly transitioning between the many different locations in Oz, including the Emerald City. Susan Hilferty’s Tony Award-winning costumes brilliant portray the many different characters in Oz, from Glinda’s glitzy gowns to talking (and flying) animals, to the eccentric denizens of Oz.
Here the design team talks about their inspiration and the construction of the set and costumes: