Blonde on Blonde. Lucy Durack talks life after Glinda
Lucy, you played Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked around 1,500 times. I can't even get my head around that figure. But I have to ask you, was there any one performance that was particularly memorable?
The last show in Adelaide was really emotional because Jemma [Rix], who was playing Elphaba, and I had become such good friends. It was that moment that I was like, "It’s the beginning of the end". I treated the whole Brisbane and Adelaide seasons as a farewell tour.
Perth [the final Australian performances of Wicked] was also pretty surreal. It was the only time during the whole nearly four years that I was so grateful to have two shows on a Sunday because it meant that the last day was just this big Wicked experience. Everyone was giving each other cards. We’d developed such a close company and, you know, there was still a decent handful of us who had been there since the start.
There were even Wicked superfans flying interstate to see those shows.
It was amazing. All of a sudden all these familiar faces from all around the country started arriving – and in costume too – and giving us these amazing gifts. It was really amazing.
And you’re so wonderful to your fans. I often see photos that they put up of you at the stage door.
I love meeting people at the stage door, it’s such a nice treat to get to meet people who’ve enjoyed the show.
You once told me about your memory of meeting Rob Guest after a performance of Phantom and remembering that as a great example of someone interacting with an audience.
Rob continues to teach me so much. I so often think of him and think, "What would Rob do in this situation?" He was such a strong leading man and he really was so good to everybody and that’s why I think it was so much sadder when he passed away. He really was the father figure of the company.
I lived in Perth and we came across to Melbourne with our Year 12 Drama group. Phantom of the Opera was doing one of its return seasons at the Princess Theatre and we went and saw it. I’d seen it once before – it was the first musical I’d seen – and he came out and talked to us with his Phantom costume on and everything. He was so nice and he answered everyone’s questions. It really had such an impact on me so we did lots and lots of school talks and that sort of thing [during Wicked] and I was really chuffed to do them.
How much emotion was bleeding onto the stage when you were nearing the end?
100 percent. The last show was actually one of the most special shows ever – I was worried that we were going to just blubber and cry the whole show... But we didn’t.
Actually, while we were doing the mic check… My Nanna had passed away the year before and she never got to see Wicked, and she was the only one in my family who never got to see it because she couldn’t fly. Nanna was a really strong woman and I thought my Nanna’s probably watching and she would not be impressed if I cried through the whole show, so I held it together.
And because of all that we all did a show where we all meant everything we said. It was the best show we’d ever done.
What do you take away from that nearly four-year experience?
I am still so grateful and almost can’t believe that it happened. I got to live my dream for such a long time. I can remember on the first night thinking, please just let this run for at least a few weeks…
Be careful what you wish for…
Wishes do come true. And once you do get your wish, don’t be complacent. It’s very easy to go, "Okay, what do I want next?" It’s very important to be in the moment and not let the moment go past without really appreciating it. So I never let go of that. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I’m incredibly grateful for it.
Yeah, one of the little training wands. The props guys made one of them up in a frame. And also the wardrobe department let me keep Glinda’s engagement ring. Also, depending on how boisterous I was being, I sometimes wore these really frilly undies – so I got to keep these pink frilly knickers…
You’ve always said that you never got bored of Glinda, but at the same time it must’ve been really exciting to shed that 15kg dress and think about what’s next.
So many things have happened. I was extremely lucky. The day I finished Wicked was a Sunday and I flew back to Sydney on the Monday and had an audition for a little part for a movie which I got – so I hit the ground running. It’s just a small part in a TV movie called Dripping In Chocolate that David Wenham stars in. It’s just a little cameo but it was really fun and it gave me something to do.
And then I got asked to sing for the Queen and that was amazing. I sang the British National Anthem and the Australian National Anthem for the Queen and met the Queen and her husband. I took my sister and she met them too.
I met Natalie Tran a while ago who mentioned hanging out with you on a film set.
We had a great time. She’s awesome.
What’s the film?
Again, it’s just a cameo. It’s called Goddess and it’s directed by Mark Laprell. I play Ronan Keating’s children’s babysitter called Cherry. Nat, Pia Miranda, Corinne Grant and Tamsin Carroll play this group of four mothers, and even though I was only in one scene with those girls we were quite often filming on the same days so we got to just hang out in a trailer and gossip. The five of us got on like a house on fire. It was really fun. It’s a musical film – my character doesn’t actually sing in it but those four women do sing in it. I’m really excited to see it.
You also narrated a children’s audio book, the very aptly titled Lucy the Good?
I know! I was like, "Oh my God, this is bizarre." It’s such a lovely book. It’s about a little girl who is getting in her own way and just can’t do anything right. It’s quite moving for a children’s book.
Also, one of my relatives was the late, great Dame Mary Durack, a very famous author who wrote Kings in Grass Castles. The publisher got me to do a little foreword on that, which I was really proud to do.
I also had a listen to a couple of the Matthew Robinson-penned tracks on your website. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear you using your, well, real voice.
[Laughs.] Not singing in a helium-pitched voice? It’s really satisfying to sing like that too because until Wicked I had never sang in that kind of voice, so it was all new and exciting for a while and then everybody – including myself – forgot that I could do anything else. And to get to do something like Sondheim is fantastic.
Well yes, you’re doing a couple of numbers in Side by Side by Sondheim in April. Have you performed much else from the Sondheim songbook?
I’ve done little bits. I actually auditioned for WAAPA with ‘I Know Things Now’, the Little Red Riding Hood song from Into the Woods, and I’ve always been a massive fan of Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park with George. WAAPA has the most incredible CD library – so I know a lot of Sondheim from listening to it in the car. And actually, I was cast to play April in the Kookaburra theatre company production of Company – but then I got cast in Respect. Basically, I just signed up to too many things and so unfortunately I couldn’t do Company, and that was always something I’d have loved to do, but it just didn’t work with dates. I’d done some publicity and everything; it was all such a shame. I still, to this day, just wish that it could’ve worked out that I could’ve done both.
Well, you do get to sing one song from Company...
Yes – ‘You Can Drive a Person Crazy’...
... which I’m singing, I believe, with Helen Dallimore and Rachael Beck. I’m pretty excited to work with those women because I just love them. Actually, the first time I saw Wicked I saw Helen Dallimore as Glinda and I just loved watching her. I’ve been a massive fan of hers for years. When I first got into the industry – I was probably 20 or something – I saw her in a play and I was like "Oh my God, she’s so amazing", and I wrote her all these letters. I’ve since met her and that’s so embarassing… She’s such an incredible actress.
And I’m a massive fan of Rachael Beck as well. I didn’t get to see Beauty and the Beast but the CD that Rachel is on is one of my favourites.
The other number is ‘If Momma Was Married’ from Gypsy.
Yes, with Melissa Langton, who I was meant to be doing Strange Bedfellows with – I was meant to be starting that two days after I finished Wicked. But as fate would have it, all these other things wouldn’t have happened. Melissa and I were meant to be doing that together, and she and I did 42nd Street together and I’m really excited to be working with her as well. She’s got one of the best voices in the country, I think, and she’s just such a lovely person also.
And I am so excited to meet Ruthie Henshall. I’m a massive fan of hers. I’ve got her CD of Crazy For You which I’ve listened to that over a thousand times, I think.
Actually I was lucky enough to catch the Wicked cast’s one-off performance of [the Stephen Sondheim musical] Into the Woods a couple of years ago. You were working on that on your Mondays off.
Yeah, we were, and all through the day just before the show and any spare time we had really. We all worked really hard and were all quite excited to have a different project to work on.
And you had to tackle the fiendishly difficult ‘Your Fault’.
We practised like you would not believe to get that because it is so hard. It was the hardest song I’ve ever had to sing! It’s such satisfying material to perform.
And also ‘You Are Not Alone’?
I love that song so much. Definitely one of my top five.
So congratulations about getting the role of Elle in Legally Blonde.
Like the role of Glinda, I know it was a role you were hoping for, for quite some time.
Oh definitely! Before I’d even heard that there was a musical version, the film was something I absolutely loved from an early age. I watched it when I was at school and loved it so much. I could quote sections of it and that sort of thing.
When I heard it was made into a musical I thought, oh God I hope it’s good. And when I saw it, it was even better than I had expected. They’ve done such a clever job of incorporating so much of the film and creating all of this great new music that’s very catchy and very contemporary.
I think it’s a brilliant film to be made into a stage musical. It has such a lovely story. It’s very empowering, even though at first glance you wouldn’t assume it to be. It really is. Elle gets put down and rises above it – and stays true to who she is the whole way through it.
The most important question is: Will there be a dog on stage?
Yes, we’ve just done the media launch and I got to work with the cutest little Chihuahua named Ace who was playing Bruiser. They made him the cutest pink and white sailor outfit. He’s extremely cute.
So you’ve already donned the pink power suit?
Yes, I’ve got the pink boots with the purple jeans and the pink jacket and the pink cap, and they sent out the pink jacket from the London production for me to wear.
Sounds like a natural progression from Glinda…
Well it is extremely fortunate that pink is my favourite colour! I do love pink and I’m a very girly girl so it’s quite a natural fit for me in that regard. It doesn’t get much more pink than Elle in Legally Blonde!
Legally Blonde, Princess Theatre, 9 May-29 Sep 2013.