BWW Interview: She's a Witchy Woman- WICKED's Rachel Tucker Has Crossed an Ocean For Another Go at Elphaba
She is a record-breaking Elphaba in the West End, and now she's crossed the Atlantic to take a stab at the role on Broadway.
Starting just last month, Rachel Tucker, who holds the record for most consecutive performances as Elphaba in London (over 1000 shows), joined the company of WICKED on Broadway. This marks her second Broadway role, having made her debut as Meg Dawson in THE LAST SHIP last fall.
She joins a cast which currently includes Kara Lindsay as Glinda, Jonah Platt as Fiyero, Michele Lee as Madame Morrible,Fred Applegate as The Wizard, Robin De Jesús as Boq, Arielle Jacobs as Nessarose, and Timothy Britten Parker as Dr. Dillamond.
Tucker just checked in with BroadwayWorld about her first month as a Broadway Elpahba and updated us on everything that's been going on at the Gershwin since she arrived. Check out the full interview below!
You've been back in the show for about a month now. How's that been going?
It's pretty, pretty special actually. It's just been a whirlwind. I know the show very well; I knew what was expected, but it still surprises me with how much of an impact it has on me as a performer and on the audience...seeing that reaction every night. Also, what it does to me physically... I forgot how demanding it is. It's been a dream come true because I've always wanted to play the show on Broadway. It really has been a bit of everything and I got sick twice since then. I'm actually suffering from a sinus infection at the moment. You take the highs and the lows, and it's a very demanding high-pressure job, but it's very rewarding.
I love the video that was released last week of you with Aaron Tveit. That was fantastic!
Isn't it lovely? I love the arrangement. It's hard to turn a classic, really well known song into an original song and a duet at that. It's a really great twist on it. That's what Wicked is trying to do: trying to make a new audience member hear it differently for the first time and actually hear it as opposed to being this classic Broadway tune that everyone knows and loves. They're just inviting a new audience in and opening it up to a new audience.
So many actresses have gotten to play this part over the years and they've all put their own spin on her. What's your take on Elphaba?
I see Elphaba as an intelligent, intellectual young woman who has probably experienced more ostracization in her life than anyone should. She keeps it underneath; she's very hurt by it but never shows it. The strength in her character, that I know the directors want it to come through, is that everyone is hurt when they get called names or are ostracized, but her strength is not showing it. That's where her power is as a strong young woman. She's extremely generous and loyal to her sister and her family: her only family member she adores and loves and the only family member she really has. She puts her love and her strength into that.... it's something I've found this time around more than last time, which is great, because it's all she really has before she comes to Shiz. So, that was a good find; I loved finding that. I think she ultimately is the strongest character, and the strongest one I've ever played; I love that. I love playing strong, feisty women.
Has she changed for you at all over the years? How you approach her?
I have in the fact that I've got a second crack at the whip to come back to a character again. After playing it for so long and so long ago, I took a lot of time for it to, like smelly cheese, mature. I've also been able to not worry about "Can I sing it? Will I remember all of my lines?" Actually knowing that I've got that in the bag, I can go a level deeper with it and just find other things and interpret lines with more depth and meaning. It's something you don't get in London, not necessarily because you have the assistant director directing you. It's been great that I've had that and had it at my fingertips. It's just been a deeper understanding on Elphaba and having the time to have that.
What for you is the hardest thing about playing her 8 times a week?
I'm learning... it's kind of very hard to pace myself. It's a technique I'm still learning. I enjoy giving everything I have especially at a five-show weekend with this crazy schedule, so I have to pace myself during the week. I have to make sure I have enough energy and stamina left for getting through the week. But when you're sick like this, it's really hard; I was off last night. I love being at work.
Do you have a favorite moment in the show or does it change night to night for you?
It does change night to night. Instantly what came to mind was identifying something different that I sing, like, "down" when they enter, after they reveal that the wizard isn't as wonderful as they may have thought he was. When she says the first line, "something has changed within me...," the first line of "Defying Gravity," it's the first time Elphaba feels a change and realizes she has the power. I love that each night.
I like the fact that being a mother this time around, and doing it 8 times a week, is another challenge! It's really different and difficult, but I have a wonderful husband who gets up with him in the morning and lets me lie in. Elphaba being handed a golden ticket from Morrible, an opportunity and chance to better herself and be seen for who she is and see what power she has, that's been great. You go from a -1 on a scale of rating herself as a person and human being to a plus 10 within that one song; it's a great journey.
Is this your first time back in New York since THE LAST SHIP?
It is, yeah.
Are you enjoying being back in the city?
I'm loving it. We're right in Brooklyn, which is so much nicer for us. It's been really, really lovely out here. It's just been great, I'm just loving it.
Your career really took off after doing "I'd Do Anything." Looking back on that experience, is it all happy thoughts that come to mind?
I loved every minute of it. I really just threw myself in the program and we were all there for as long as we possibly could be. It was a great showcase for me and exposure and experience. I'm so glad I did it. I didn't think I would, but I got to the point in my career where I was doing a lot of touring the UK, and it's kind of hard to get seen for West End stuff. It was also meeting up with the right agent... so a lot of things happened at the same time, which is great. It was a brilliant experience; I loved it.
Yes, it seemed like a good career move.
It might not have been. It could have been a bad move to expose yourself if you didn't have a great run of songs. It did for some of the girls; it wasn't the best thing they could've done, but thankfully it worked out.
So looking ahead at the rest of your run in Wicked, what are you most excited about?
I really look forward to settling into it. It does take a couple of months; I just want to get into a groove and get it under my bones. I look forward to that and enjoying the run and being there. Honestly, it's such a joy to sing and act this every night. I just love it. I love getting on and finding it fresh each evening. To me, this role is a no-brainer, especially on Broadway.
Tucker has just finished playing Poopay in Communicating Doors at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. Prior to that production she made her Broadway debut as Meg Dawson in Sting's musical, The Last Ship. Rachel made her West End debut as Meat in Ben Elton and Queen's musical We Will Rock You. Prior to that, Rachel took part in the BBC's "I'd Do Anything," where she reached the semi-final stages for the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh's production of Oliver!. This led to a developmental workshop of Andrew Lloyd Webber'sLove Never Dies, where she played the role of Meg Giry at the Sydmonton Festival.
Other UK credits include Mary in Tonight's The Night (Phil McIntyre), Sally Simpson in The Who's Tommy (Bill Kenwright), Estelle in The Full Monty and Ida in Farragut North (Southwark Playhouse). Rachel was part of the Belfast Lyric Theatre's repertory company playing roles such as Dorothy in the Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, Kelly in Merry Christmas Betty Ford by Connor Mitchell (TMA Award nomination for both), and Grace Power in the Northern Irish political farce To Be Sure.
Rachel can be heard on the original cast album of The Last Ship and recently released her debut solo album, The Reason, on Bighand Recordings. She received her training at the Royal Academy of Music.