Ashleigh Gray stars in Wicked

WICKED’S opened at the Lowry and Geoffrey Shryhane talks to star Ashleigh Gray.
Wicked - Ashleigh Gray. Photo Matt CrockettWicked - Ashleigh Gray. Photo Matt Crockett
Wicked - Ashleigh Gray. Photo Matt Crockett

Open the jars of green stage make-up because that top musical Wicked is back in town.

The great show, telling what happens BEFORE the iconic Wonderful Wizard of Oz story was filmed, has won millions of fans the world over.

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And now, it has opened at the Lowry – and was given a rousing reception at the first night on Tuesday.

We all remember the line from the film “Ding Dong, the Witch is dead.”

Well let me say right here and now she’s now. The wonderful crafty Wicked Witch is delighting audiences who, thanks to Wicked, are able to know what goes on before the story is picked up by the iconic old film.

So what’s the story?

It’s a vivid re-imagining of the classic The Wizard of Oz and the stage musical spotlights the untold story of Oz’s famous (or should that be infamous) Wicked Witch of the West, who flies about alongside Glinda the Good.

And what a fabulous pair they make.

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The show follows green-skinned Elphaba from birth to college and the audiences sees her go through changing events which eventually label her “truly wicked.”

Then Glinda appears – all pretty frocks and soft voices, plus a whole array of other amazing characters.

Fans who haven’t been thrilled by Wicket before are in for a very rare treat indeed.

Ultimate the show is about love, friendship and trust and the story effortless reveals that there are indeed two sides to every story.

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Playing “wicked” Elphaba, Ashleigh Gray is no stranger to musicals. But why did she plump for a career in show business.

She laughs saying: “Well, I must tell you that I’ve always been a bit of a drama queen. When I was a little tot, my mother tells me I was always singing and dancing.

“Thinking back, as a child I never considered that I’d do anything but go on stage. It seemed the most natural thing in the world.

“My school drama teacher greatly encouraged me and my parents were totally supportive through all the years. I have been so lucky.

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“I did three years at the Guildford Drama School and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Thankfully luck was on my side and after getting myself an agent, I won a place in the Boy George musical Taboo.

“I felt very much at home straight away and suddenly I was touring with the show. Touring gives you a feel for a very different kind of life – a new town and a different theatre every week.

“When you’re touring, the other players become a kind of substitute family”

Ashleigh went on to appear in other musicals, including Grease, and realised that her dream to be in show business had been well and truly realised.

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She added: “It was also thrilling to take part in the Susan Boyle musical I Dreamed a Dream and became very friendly with Susan who is a kind and very generous person.

“Looking back, I realise that as a child, I was always wanting to watch musicals on the television.

“I was enthralled when Wicked came along. I found the whole show absolutely fascinating. There was something very special about it.

“I dreamed of getting a part and finally succeeded as the understudy for Elphaba. I learned a lot during this time and of course, couldn’t have been more thrilled when I was offered the part.

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“Elphaba is a great part, but I do know in my heart that whilst I love acting, singing is my whole life.”

Asked where she expected to be in 10 years’ time, Ashleigh said: “Well, I do find that a difficult question. To be honest I’m enjoying life so much just now, I’ve really not had time to think about the future.

“Wicked has been playing in the West End for so many years and I feel fortunate to have won this great part. Every night is a joy. The show has a very high entertainment value and I feel the whole audience returns home feeling as though they are walking on air.”

Wicked is on at the Lowry until July 25.

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