DIVA TALK: A Chat With London Wicked Star Helen Dallimore, Plus Fantasticks and "Unplugged" on CD

News   DIVA TALK: A Chat With London Wicked Star Helen Dallimore, Plus Fantasticks and "Unplugged" on CD
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Helen Dallimore; Dallimore with Idina Menzel in London's Wicked
Helen Dallimore; Dallimore with Idina Menzel in London's Wicked Photo by Tristram Kenton

Australia native Helen Dallimore is currently making her West End debut as Glinda in the hit Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The actress, who is the first to sport an English accent as the curly-locked witch, has been seen onstage in productions of Guys and Dolls, Pentecost, Up for Grabs, The Republic of Myopia and Harbour. Her screen credits include the Glenn Close-TV version of "South Pacific," "The Three Stooges" and the feature film "Kangaroo Jack." On Dec. 30 Dallimore will play her final performance with Broadway favorite Idina Menzel, who re-created her Tony-winning work as the green-faced, misunderstood Elphaba for London audiences; two days later, on Jan. 1, 2007, Dallimore will begin playing opposite the first British Elphaba, when Kerry Ellis succeeds Menzel. I recently had the chance to chat with Dallimore, who is thrilled about her latest role.

Question: How did the role of Glinda originally come about for you?
Helen Dallimore: I auditioned. I asked my agent if he could get me an audition for the show as soon as I heard it was coming over here. And he did, and a couple of months and eight auditions later, I got the part! [Laughs.]

Question: Were you living in London at the time? ...You're originally from Australia, right?
Dallimore: Yes, I am, but I had been here for a year-and-a-half.

Question: Had you seen Wicked performed anywhere at that point?
Dallimore: No, I had heard the CD and I'd read the novel, the Gregory Maguire novel.

Question: What did you like about the character of Glinda?
Dallimore: The comic potential is what attracted me the most because she's so much fun and all the laughs [she gets]. She has a tremendous journey as well. I'm a big believer in "make 'em laugh, make 'em cry," and I think that Glinda gets to do both of those things, which is very attractive. Question: What was the rehearsal process like?
Dallimore: It was interesting because Idina [Menzel] has done the role [of Elphaba] before, and the rest of us hadn't. The directors and choreographers had [also] done the show before, so it was really an interesting process — kind of getting on board what they had envisaged and they had done already and trying to do different things with that and sort of morphing it into something new, having new accents, British accents. We gelled very well as a cast, so that was lovely. We all became close friends quite quickly, so we had a really good time.

Question: Even though the show had been done before, did you feel that you were able to find new things with the character and that the creative team let find your own way with the role?
Dallimore: I was very much able to create her from scratch because she's an English Glinda rather than a sort of cheerleading Valley Girl Glinda, which is quite a different animal. [Laughs.] I made her much more a sort of private school girl, a boarding school-finishing school kind of girl. And with an accent, of course, you really are starting from scratch. I think it makes such a difference.

Question: What has it been like working with Idina?
Dallimore: It's been fabulous. She's one of the most generous people I've worked with, onstage and off. And, obviously, singing with her is just a huge thrill because she's so very amazing! It's been wonderful.

Question: Has there been any talk of a London cast recording?
Dallimore: I did hear rumor at some point, but I couldn't tell you. I couldn't confirm or deny. I'd like to do it.

Question: What's it like getting to make your entrance every night in that bubble?
Dallimore: [Laughs.] It's great fun. I love it! I love riding around in the bubble — I could be up there all night!

Question: Has it ever gotten stuck?
Dallimore: Yeah, first preview it didn't come down at all. One of the cast screams out, "Look, it's Glinda!," and it wasn't! [Laughs.] I was just stuck, and I looked down at them and shook my head, and we had to start the show again. But it was fun for the audience because when I finally did come down, they were beside themselves.

Question: How would you describe the character of Glinda?
Dallimore: She aspires to perfection, and she aspires to be "good" in inverted commas, and it's not until she meets Elphaba that she manages to become good without the inverted commas. Most of the things she does in order to be good are really to serve her own self and her own ego, and she learns that doing things for more altruistic purposes is what being good is all about. So, she's like those perfect girls that I think we all went to school with that are very, very popular — "popular" being the operative word. And, then often you meet them 20 years later at a reunion, and they're really bitter and divorced. [Laughs.] And I think that she narrowly escapes that fate by her friendship with Elphaba — she becomes somebody else.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for your character?
Dallimore: I love "Popular." I love doing that number — it's always fun.

Question: How demanding is doing the role eight times a week?
Dallimore: It's extremely demanding. It's quite an emotional journey as well as a big sing. I'm sort of just getting into my stride now, but certainly I can't do anything else other than rest, really, and drink a lot of water.

Question: How do you prepare to go on each night?
Dallimore: I have my vocal warm-up that I do, and I have to get myself right up there to the top C before the show. Then I inhale steam for about ten minutes and stretch, that sort of thing.

Question: You'll be getting a new Elphaba in January.
Dallimore: That's right, yeah, Kerry [Ellis].

Question: Have you performed with her?
Dallimore: Yes, Idina was sick for a couple of nights, and Kerry went on halfway through the show. It was great actually — the audience was really on our side. She's gonna be fabulous. She's very confident with the role already. We'll be missing Idina terribly, but we'll be in trusty hands.

Question: Just going back a bit, where were you born and raised?
Dallimore: I was born in Australia, and I was raised both in Australia and here in the U.K. in Oxford. I came back and forth quite a bit. I went to school in both countries.

Question: And when did you start performing?
Dallimore: I suppose in high school. I trained, at the age of 21 I went to NIDA, National Institute of Dramatic Arts Sydney, where Cate Blanchett and Mel Gibson and Judy Davis and people like that all trained. It's sort of our best place there, so I guess I started professionally performing after I graduated from there.

Question: Were there any actors that you particularly admired when you were younger?
Dallimore: I'm a huge fan of Bernadette Peters. Marilyn Monroe I love. I mean she's not really an actress, she's something else, but whatever it is, I love it! I love Meryl Streep. Who else do I love? Madeline Kahn. I do love comediennes.

Question: When do you think you realized that this would be your career? When did it change from maybe something you did for fun?
Dallimore: I always thought it would be my career. I can't remember thinking anything else would be my career.

Question: What would you like to do after Wicked? Where do you see your career going?
Dallimore: I'd like to do some film work, film or TV. After a year in theatre, it's always good to have variety I think.

Question: Do you have a favorite role at this point, of the roles you've done?
Dallimore: Out of everything I've played? Oh, I think it might have to be Glinda. [Laughs.]

Question: How long do you think you'll stay with the show?
Dallimore: Well, I'm contracted until July, so we'll see what happens after that.

Question: Any chance you might get to bring your Glinda to New York?
Dallimore: Wow, I don't know — I have to bat my eyelids at the producer! [Laughs.] But that would be wonderful. Question: What are your plans for the holidays this year?
Dallimore: Well, we don't have a lot of time off, but I'm going down to Oxford to spend Christmas with my family down there. It should be lovely.

Question: Do you make New Year's resolutions?
Dallimore: Sometimes. [Laughs.]

Question: Any this year?
Dallimore: Yeah, I'm going to go back to the gym, which I've neglected since I've started doing this role. I'd like to go back and start doing some yoga. I think everyone makes that New Year's resolution, don't they? "I'm gonna go back to the gym more" or "stop eating cheese!" — those are the big ones for me.

[The London production of Wicked plays the Apollo Victoria Theatre; for ticket information call (0)870 594 9494.]


"Broadway Unplugged 2" (Bayview Recording Company)
"Broadway Unplugged 2"—the second annual Town Hall concert featuring Broadway performers singing without amplification—was presented Sept. 19, 2005, and Bayview Recording Company recently released a single CD of highlights from that sold-out performance. Among those who particularly shine on the 18-track disc are current Company star Barbara Walsh, who delivers a thrilling, belty rendition of "Losing My Mind" from another Stephen Sondheim musical, Follies; Norm Lewis, who lends his rich, creamy tones to A New Brain's "I'd Rather Be Sailing"; Sutton Foster, the Drowsy Chaperone star who offers a letter-perfect rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "Where or When"; Deven May, who delivers a full-voiced and deeply felt version of Sondheim's "Being Alive"; Liz Callaway, who displays her crystal-clear tones on "Be a Lion"; Euan Morton, who gives new life to the Lerner and Loewe classic "On the Street Where You Live"; and Mary Bond Davis, who provides a roof-raising "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues."

The Fantasticks (Ghostlight Records)
This past summer the revival of the world's longest-running musical, The Fantasticks, opened Off-Broadway at the new Snapple Theater Center. When listening to the score — music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones (Jones also directed and co-stars in the show's new production) — one realizes why the musical ran for decades: The score is chock-full of beautiful songs.

The new Off-Broadway recording of the classic coming-of-age story has just been released on the Ghostlight Records label, and the songs sound as fresh as ever. The 28-track recording, which features a few spoken passages, also boasts a bonus track of a 1959 recording that composer Schmidt made of "O Have You Ever Been to China?," a song that was never completed and was eventually replaced by "Round and Round."

Highlights of the new CD include the show's anthem, the poignant "Try to Remember," performed by Burke Moses, the original Gaston of Broadway's Beauty and the Beast whose baritone remains in fine form; Sara Jean Ford's lilting version of "Soon It's Gonna Rain"; "I Can See It," the upbeat exchange between Moses and Santino Fontana that builds to a wonderful climax; and Fontana and Ford's lovely renditions of "Metaphor" and the always-moving "They Were You." The new recording includes complete lyrics, production photos and liner notes by co-creators Jones and Schmidt.

Jackie Hoffman, who opened the Manhattan Theatre Club's world-premiere production of Regrets Only, will return to her home-away-from-home, Joe's Pub, in 2007. The comedic actress — best known to Broadway audiences for the several characters she played in the Tony-winning musical Hairspray — will bring her latest show, Jackie with a Z, to the intimate cabaret located within the Public Theater. Hoffman is scheduled to perform at Joe's Pub Feb. 12 and 19 and March 5 and 19. Michael Schiralli will direct the evenings with musical direction by Bobby Peaco. Show time is 7:30 PM. Joe's Pub is located at 425 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place. Tickets, priced at $25, are available at the Public Theater's box office or by calling (212) 967-7555. Visit www.joespub.com for more information.

Four of the top draws in the cabaret field — Andrea Marcovicci, Jeff Harnar, Maude Maggart and Steve Ross — will display their talents for London audiences in February 2007. Harnar will host the month-long season at the Jermyn Street Theatre, which is titled The American Songbook in London. Marcovicci will kick off the four-week run with Andrea Marcovicci Sings Frank Loesser, Feb. 6-11. She will be followed by Steve Ross Sings Stephen Sondheim (Feb. 13-18), Maude Maggart Sings Irving Berlin (Feb. 20-25) and Jeff Harnar Sings Cole Porter (Feb. 27-March 4). The Jermyn Street Theatre is located at 16b Jermyn Street in London. For tickets call 44 020 7287 2875. Visit www.americansongbookinlondon.com for more information.

Jayne Paterson will join the Off-Broadway revival of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Jan. 9, 2007, the same day the company at the Zipper Theatre welcomes former "American Idol" contestant — and recent Wedding Singer star — Constantine Maroulis. Paterson will succeed Diaz in the acclaimed revival, which recently celebrated its 300th performance. Diaz is departing the production to be part of the Kennedy Center's upcoming mounting of Carnival. Paterson, who had been an understudy for the Brel revue, will have the chance to sing such tunes as "I Loved," "Timid Frieda," "Old Folks," "My Death" and "You're Not Alone." The Zipper Theater is located in Manhattan at 336 West 37th Street. For more information visit www.jacquesbrelreturns.com.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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