Wicked witches put spell on audience

MAGIC: Jemma Rix (Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West) and Jay Laga'aia (Wizard of Oz).
MAGIC: Jemma Rix (Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West) and Jay Laga'aia (Wizard of Oz).

Becoming an actor isn't as easy as tapping your sparkly red slippers together, Wicked star Jay Laga'aia has told a group of aspiring performers.

Laga'aia, who plays the Wizard of Oz in the upcoming Auckland season of Wicked, visited Wellington's Whitireia Performance Centre on Tuesday to give advice to about 100 students who want to break into the theatre industry.

Jemma Rix, who plays Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West, and Suzie Mathers (Glinda, the Good Witch of the North) also performed at the event and talked to students about pursuing their dreams of becoming professional performers.

"We thought this would be a great opportunity to come and talk to the young people who are working to build a craft of their own," Laga'aia says.

"It [performing arts] isn't a job that you can build a house with or, for a lot of people, make money out of ... It's tough. But if you put in the work, then you'll get there and that's what we're trying to show these students."

Laga'aia, known for his role as Captain Typho in the Star Wars Episode II and III films, says playing the wizard is a drastic change from other roles.

"There are not too many Samoans who play the Wizard of Oz. I'm looking forward to being the first Polynesian to play the wizard in this 10th anniversary show."

Wicked premiered on Broadway in the United States in 2003 and tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba and Glinda, who struggle with their opposing personalities and viewpoints.

The musical tells the backstory of the tale of The Wizard of Oz, Rix says. "It's a story of friendship, love, and power. There's so many elements that make Wicked so successful for all ages, from eight to 80."

Rix says she was blown away by the reaction she received from the Whitireia students.

"When you're on stage you normally can't see anybody, whereas this – you can see everybody. You see all these smiles, people clapping and getting excited. It literally did bring tears to my eyes."

Rix, who first landed her role as Elphaba in the Universal Studios production of Wicked in Japan in 2006, says it is important for performers to enjoy what they do.

"Do what makes you happy and I think that if performing is something that you love, then go for it.

"But unfortunately there are so many talented people in this world who are next in line and waiting. So you need to be the best that you can be."

Mathers says she hopes the event at Whitireia will also encourage students to watch the show when it begins in Auckland in September.

"The show is fabulous. The costumes, the set, the lighting, the music, the storyline – everything gels together so well and creates this spectacular event that you walk away from wanting to see again. Everyone will absolutely adore it."


Wicked is being performed at The Civic Theatre in Auckland from September 17. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.nz

The Dominion Post