The Newsroom was given an exclusive chance to see inside the Wicked world of Jemma Rix.
Jemma, aka Elphaba (the lead character in Wicked) sits in a large office style chair that has a big cushion back, the kind you would find in the office of a hot shot CEO. Her makeup artist, Kelly, applies coat after coat of green make-up to her face, hands and neck and slowly Jemma is transformed into the green, Wicked Witch of the West. It’s clear from the way Jemma moves her body, making it easier for the make-up artist, that this process has been done thousands of times before.
“Well… let’s just say me and my make-up artist have gotten to know each other pretty well over the last few years,” says Jemma. “She is often the first person I see when I get to work in the morning and the last person I see before I go home at night.”
The final touches of the emerald green disguise are applied to Jemma’s body and Kelly bids farewell, “until next time,” she exclaims.
Looking around the spacious room there are a few key indicators that it belongs to a performer, from the wardrobe filled with a cluster of outfits that hang in deliberate sequence, to the wigs perched perfectly on mannequin heads.
Sitting on the worn two-seater lounge, Jemma acts with a sense of calmness and relaxation that in no way resembles someone who is moments away from performing on stage to over 2000 people. Eyes remain focused. Breathing always steady.
“Oh, you should have seen me before my first performance,” she states. “All I wanted was to stay in my dressing room and hide.
“I think nerves are only natural and come when you are doing anything that is outside of your comfort zone. Learning to overcome those nerves is something that I have learnt only through years of experience.”
About six years of experience to be exact. That is how long Jemma has been part of the Australian production of Wicked. The musical acts as a loose prequel to The Wizard of Oz and centres around how the characters in the movie came to be who they are. Jemma has been involved in the show since its Australian premiere in 2008. She joined the production as a 21-year-old and virtual theatre novice, undertaking the position of understudy for the lead character of Elphaba. Almost eight years later the production is currently staging its third tour of Australia, however this time Jemma is nobody’s back-up. After the shows first Australian production back in 2009 she took over the role of Elphaba and has held it ever since. Some people may look at this journey and see it as an incredible achievement, however Jemma simply produces a half-hearted laugh, covers her eyes with her palm and groans, “oh my God, that makes me sound old”.
This is just a glimpse at the easy-going and down to earth personality that comes so naturally to her. Before having a chance to discuss things any further, a member of the production team comes in and whisks Jemma away for pre-show commitments. This was the perfect time to get further insight on Jemma from close friend and co-star Lucy Durack. With her golden blonde hair and innocent smile, Lucy is the classic girl next door. Unlike Jemma, Lucy exhibits some of the classic giveaways that she is suffering from pre-show jitters. The ever fidgeting of her hands and her stressed facial expressions are dead giveaways. “I am always nervous no matter how many times I have done something, it’s times like these I wish I could be more like Jemma, I mean she is always the picture of calm.”
It is clear from the way Lucy spoke about Jemma that the two have a great relationship not only on stage but off it. Silence fills the room as she ponders how to best describe the relationship between her and Jemma. It isn’t so much her response that gives an insight into the pair’s relationship, but rather her body language. Tilting her head slightly to one side, resting her chin in the palm of her hand, she looks blankly into empty space. Then all of a sudden a wide infectious grin takes over her face, further lighting up her features. The question clearly provoked a powerful memory that she is now basking in.
Before long, another member of the production team enters the room to take Lucy away, as it is only moments before the curtain opens. Sitting in the crowd watching these two women perform with such intensity and grace, it is amazing to think just moments ago they were sitting on a couch talking so freely. After the show and back in the dressing room – Jemma again sits on the couch. Showing no signs of the woman who was just belting out show tunes, instead she is replaced by the same relaxed down to earth person as before. Only now we are discussing her future.
“I really haven’t thought about it that much. I guess I am happy where I am now and feel so lucky to be involved in such an amazing production like this.
“I mean I know I wont be able to do this role forever so there will come a time when I have to look elsewhere, I guess when that happens I just hope I will have the opportunity to play a character with a similar depth in an amazing production.”
Just as the thought comes to an end, the door opens and the make-up artist returns.
“Here we go again,” she says with a humorous tone.
It was now time for Jemma to have the make-up removed, thus signalling the end of her day. – Daniel Stringer
Top screenshot taken from Official Wicked Australia YouTube Video.