The Wicked Witch of the West is the true star of “The Wizard of Oz.” She even inspired her own musical backstory spinoff with a lifetime supply of killer catchphrases, synonymous with her shrill cackle and green skin. So how intimidating is it to recreate a legendary character for stage?
Shani Hadjian takes on the role as the Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “The Wizard of Oz,” coming to the Citi Wang Theatre next week. The Ohio native previously starred in the national tour of “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Fancy Nancy” and knew she was stepping into a role that would be known wide and well. She chats with us just before the production arrives in Boston about taking on this iconic role, the Wicked Witch as a feminist and why it’s not so easy being green.
A 'Wicked' remix
Before the production kicked into high gear, Hadjian hadn’t seen the film since she was a teenager. “I later watched it during tech rehearsals,” she says. “I read the books but I didn’t want to watch the movie before I didn’t want [my role] to end up being too similar because I remembered it too well. I wore out that VHS as a child though.”
While the stage production differs from the 1939 motion picture starring Judy Garland, elements of the original are still expected by adoring audiences. This new show includes many of those callbacks alongside new music from Webber and Rice, but Hadjian says the cast was still able to make the show their own.
“This type of production is timeless and [the fact] that everyone knows that is both challenging and amazing,” she explains. “It’s live theater versus a movie so that’s naturally different, but we play homage to the production that everyone knows while making it ours. There’s no way I can be Margaret Hamilton, but our creatives were very encouraging about us being our own versions as long as we were being truthful to the characters."
Wicked Witch as a role model?
While “Wicked” maybe made some fans into sympathizers, Hadjian assures us that while she’s familiar with the modern reveal of her character’s sob story, she’s still the bad guy.
“I know that everyone loves the ‘Wicked’ story and I hope it’s helped people see that side of the story, but I’m still definitely the villain in this [production],” she explains. But that’s still a good thing: “I take her passion and drive and think, ‘Oh, OK, she wants to prove herself because she wants to be the best, because she was told she wasn’t the best, and she wants to be powerful, and she is truly powerful.”
So a strong, powerful, ambitious female … role model? Is the Wicked Witch a possible feminist icon? “Eh, I think it depends, but her feelings toward Dorothy, I don’t know, maybe that’s a little in the opposite direction,” Hadjian laughs.
On going green
Set and costume designer Robert Jones, who was also on the London and Toronto tour creative team, developed the intricate feathered creation that Hadjian wears throughout the show. “I feel so strong and beautiful when I’m in costume,” she says. “They’re so powerful and stunning and I’m covered in real rooster feathers head to toe.”
Hadjian also goes green for the production, wearing makeup to replicate her character’s synonymous skin tone for each and every show. “My ears and hairline are alway green and my pores are always somewhat green. I try to scrub and exfoliate as much as I can. It’s hard on my skin, but 100-percent worth it.”
If you go:
Wizard of Oz
April 12 to 24
Citi Wang Theatre
270 Tremont St, Boston
Tickets start at $35.00