BWW Interviews: This Is Your Brain On Musical Theatre with the Wicked and Wonderful Jemma Rix
A few months back I was lucky enough to eavesdrop (conspicuously!) on a particularly Wicked conversation. Australian performer Jemma Rix was at Melbourne's Hamer Hall, discussing the mishaps that can occur when you try to defy gravity on stage. As the reigning Australasian Elphaba, she just happened to be sharing her experiences with none other than the original Green Witch herself, Broadway star Idina Menzel.
Watching these two performers trade Elphaba stories was a special, beyond the fourth wall moment for me. Rix and Menzel are beloved members of an elite group of Wicked women; Elphaba is one of the great female roles of modern times, and she requires a powerhouse performer to portray her. Only the best get to try it, and gravity mishaps aside, Jemma Rix has nailed it more than 800 times since taking on the role.
Originally cast as the Standby Elphaba for the Australian premiere production, Rix took over the iconic role from Amanda Harrison in 2010, and has since played Elphie across Australia, and throughout Asia. She is currently starring in the New Zealand premiere season of Wicked, and will take her Elphie to Manila next January, before she returns to Oz - Melbourne, that is - for the 10th Anniversary production.
Here, she shares a little of her brain on musical theatre - and tells us what she thinks makes Wicked such a strong, special show.
This Is Your Brain On Musical Theatre with Jemma Rix
Is there a particular show and/or person that first made you feel like 'this is what I want to do'?
When I was growing up I would always watch, Annie, The Little Mermaid and Calamity Jane. I would sing along and imagine myself as those characters.
What is the first cast album or soundtrack you listened to on repeat?
The first pop album I bought myself was Salt-n-Pepa - Very Necessary; I listened to it all the time. My first musical album was Chicago. I loved it!
Can you remember the moment when you first understood that you could sing the way most others can't?
It's the strangest thing; I never thought about whether I was good or not, I loved singing and performing so I just did it. Whenever there was an opportunity available - talent contests, school musicals, singing, dancing, and acting classes - I was there front row centre, just because I loved it, and it made me happy!
Is there one night in your career that you would love to go back to and experience over again?
Singing at the Carols By Candlelight. I've watched it all my life, so when I was singing on that stage it was truly a magical moment for me.
Is there one role that belongs to the opposite gender, or a different age group, that you'd secretly love to perform?
I would love to play Glinda from Wicked, even though I can't sing soprano, and don't look anything like a Glinda. Elphie and Glinda are so the opposite of each other; I always think it would be so much fun to play such a different character.
Who gets the best roles in Musical Theatre - men or women?
I think the strength of Wicked is that it's held by two strong female characters, which I haven't seen in any other musical.
What TV show, movie or book is the next hit musical waiting to happen?
Harry Potter. Lol!!
What is the saddest/most poignant song to sing and why?
From Wicked - For Good. Saying goodbye to your best friend, knowing that you won't see them again, but being grateful and humbled for what you have learnt from them. A very powerful moment, with such stunning music and beautiful lyrics; as an actress it makes my job easy to portray that moment truthfully.
[And] With You, from Ghost The Musical. I sang this song in my cabaret when I was in Melbourne - one of the saddest songs I have ever sung, but it's so moving.
and finally, borrowing from James Lipton via Bernard Pivot:
What sound or noise do you love?
My dog Skye, she is a Blue Staffy, she has bad sinuses, so she breaths really heavy and noisily, and to me it's the cutest, most soothing sound in the world!