Amy Ross: Wicked in Edinburgh

In its final week, the star of Wicked, Amy Ross, swoops in to speak to The Skinny about the musical, Elphaba, and the women of Oz

Feature by Amy Taylor | 05 Jun 2018

“I adore her!” says Amy Ross of Elphaba, the character she plays in the UK tour of Wicked. “She is a green girl who came into the world different. Not just because of the way she looks, but also because of her magical powers.”

But Elphaba, better known as The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, most memorably played by Margaret Hamilton in the 1939 film adaptation, has been given a new life, and maybe even a reprieve in Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz. In the musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, based on the book by Gregory Maguire, Elphaba is not so much wicked, but a proxy; shunned by society after being betrayed by the corrupt government of Oz, led by the apparent 'wonderful' Wizard.

The musical is also a story of an unlikely friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, known better as The Witch of the North, and their attempts to overcome adversity and speak truth to power, that runs prior, and then parallel to Dorothy’s arrival in Oz.

“At the heart of it is a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship between two very different women who become the characters we know as the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North,” Ross explains.

While the women of Wicked, although well-written and vastly entertaining, have captivated audiences for years, it’s Elphaba and her alter ego of sorts that seem to intrigue people time and time again. This, Ross believes, is what makes them both such iconic characters. Elphaba is a powerful witch who refuses to use her abilities for the wrong reasons, and is then punished for it.

“Because they are so powerful,” explains Ross of Elphaba and the Wicked Witch of the West’s appeal. “Not just because they are magic, but because they are passionate, bold, and do not apologise for being different. They stay true to their beliefs and fight for what they want, making them forces to be reckoned with.”

Aside from its subversive take on the story of The Wizard of Oz, Wicked is a spectacular musical. From incredible visual effects, to exquisite costuming and of course, flying monkeys and broomsticks, Wicked is a breathtaking show.

For Ross, who first saw it on stage during its original London run in 2006, which featured Idina Menzel in her now career-defining role as Elphaba, the musical remains as stunning now as it was at its premiere.

“I remember feeling really lucky to see the actress who originated the role right at the very start of Wicked’s journey on Broadway. There have been so many wonderful actresses to play the role since, but she set the benchmark for the character,” she explains.

Wicked is perhaps best known for its soundtrack, which features songs such as ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’, ‘Wonderful’, and of course, perhaps the most famous number, ‘Defying Gravity’. Thanks to the original Broadway recording, a lot of people will have heard the musical before they ever managed to see it live, including Ross, who remains a fan of the songs to this day.

“It goes without saying that Elphaba’s songs are epic! Steven Schwartz’s score is incredible and singing those sings is so thrilling.”

But what is it about Elphaba that keeps audiences coming back for more? To Ross, the answer is simple. “She is an incredibly loyal and passionate person who cares deeply about people, animals, and things being just. She uses her powers to try and do good, but things don’t always go to plan. She is misunderstood, and eventually becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. But is she really ‘wicked’?

Wicked continues at Edinburgh Playhouse until Sat 9 Jun