Grateful for all things Green: Suzie Mathers and Chris Scalzo

Suzie Mathers is a force to be reckoned with.

Suzie Mathers as Glinda. Image by Maye-E Wong
Suzie Mathers as Glinda. Image by Maye-E Wong

Every night at the top of the show, I stand in Oz on the stage right balcony, heralding with triumph the death of the Wickedest Witch there ever was.  I’m thinking about the joy and the terror, I’m thinking about the vibrato and the crescendos. Then Glinda appears …

And I just can’t think about anything else.

Seeing Suzie descend from the heavens as Glinda is like looking right at an actual beam of sparkling sunshine. She opens her mouth to sing and …

Well, don’t get me started.

Actually – do get me started, just for a moment.  Anyone who has been lucky enough to hear Suzie sing the role of Glinda will know what I’m talking about. I don’t know how she does it. She does, of course, like most performers, live a very strict lifestyle and spends almost every waking moment preparing herself to be in tip top show shape. But in terms of that glorious, versatile sound she makes; that is a true gift. To quote a recent backstage conversation between Matt Holly (Chistery) and myself “She (Suzie) basically has a Cathedral in her face when she sings…she is Westminster Abbey”.

I have had the honour of working alongside Suzie during her time as Glinda, The Good. I have also played Boq opposite her on many occasions – and I can tell you that falling in love with that perky blonde is a total cinch. So, bearing all this in mind, I sat down to write some questions for Suzie that will hopefully give you all a bit of an insight into the machinations of a true leading lady.

I very much hope you all enjoy reading her very honest and joyful answers below as much as I loved pulling it together.

Suz!  G’day!  Let’s chat…

What do you think it is about WICKED that people love so much?  And – are you still swept away with the magic yourself in a particular way?

I think it’s a combination of things. WICKED is such a spectacle of a show. A theatrical event. And it’s like this because of all the elements that come together to create this wonderful piece.

I think with WICKED they got the combination right; the right amount of heart, the right amount of emotion evoking music and the right amount of spectacle. The sort of show that brings on the “theatre cry”!

And yes, I get swept up by the magic every single day. Most shows it’s when I’m standing at the front of the stage, during Defying Gravity, looking up at Jem flying high and I think…how did I get here? Thank you universe!

Talk to me a little about your character, Glinda… What do you see are her strengths and weaknesses, her hopes and dreams? 

Suzie Mathers and Chris Scalzo backstage in WICKED
Suzie Mathers and Chris Scalzo backstage in WICKED, Manila

Glinda is such a wonderful character to play with so many dimensions. She goes on such a huge journey throughout the show and becomes a better person for the lessons she learns.

Glinda is confident, forward and self involved but also empathetic, loving and soft. She approaches life the only way she knows how. Privileged and entitled. But she has a huge heart and genuinely forms a life long, deep and “know no bounds” friendship with Elphaba.

She has so much love to give and wants so much to receive it too. She is ambitious, which can be to her detriment in the end, but at the time, gives her all the satisfaction she needs.

What was your favourite memory from the Auckland season? 

I’d have to say my absolute favourite memory of Auckland was performing for Stephen Schwartz for the first time and getting such an amazing response from him. The way he gushed about our Company was truly heart warming and so encouraging for us starting a new season. It’s not every day you get to perform for the composer and lyricist of one of the biggest Broadway blockbuster musicals of the 21st century. It really was a dream come true.

Do you have a particularly special Manila moment so far? 

Wicked Manila Cast fundraising for their special Typhoon Benefit Perforrmance
Wicked Manila Cast fundraising for their special Typhoon Benefit Perforrmance

I think the season thus far as a whole has been incredibly special. The audiences here are constantly blowing us away and are whole-heartedly embracing the show and us as a cast. We had a wonderful Gala Opening Night with local celebrities and audience members turning up in lavish Emerald City inspired costumes that would’ve fit in perfectly in Oz.

More recently, we did an additional benefit matinee to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. It was so special for us all being here in Manila and being able to give back to the local community.

So then…what was it like performing this now iconic role for the incredible composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz not once, but TWICE? 

Having him come again was amazing! I think there was a bit of pressure with him seeing it for a second time. We were all hoping that New Zealand wasn’t just a massive fluke. Ha! It wasn’t though and we were relieved to hear his previous words reiterated a second time round. I feel very, very proud of this Company for that. Maintaining the standard of the show and it’s story telling.

What do you find the most challenging thing about the show is for you personally?

I’d have to say stamina. Finding the right amount of show/rest/life balance so that what an audience sees on a Tuesday is the same on a Sunday, after an 8 show week. I have to look after myself a lot and spend a lot of my down time preparing for or thinking about the next show. In terms of sleep, how much I use my voice etc. There are a lot of sacrifices that you have to make to play roles like these.

If you could give one piece of advice to up and coming performers, what would it be?

My advice would be to train. Go to a drama school. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses as a performer and refine your skills. Then work hard for what you want.

[pull_left]I can’t really see myself doing anything else. My job makes me happy[/pull_left]

If you weren’t a performer – what else could you see yourself doing? 

To be honest I ask myself that question a lot, the days when sometimes you wonder why on earth you put yourself in a position where you have absolutely no idea what your next job will be, or if you will ever work again, and you have no idea how you’re going to keep paying that damn mortgage you were so set on having. And honestly, I don’t know. I can’t really see myself doing anything else. My job makes me happy. I am so lucky that I’ve had the privilege of making a living out of something that was once a hobby. If I had to choose though….I could maybe revisit that accounting degree I started once upon a time. Although I have a feeling the units I thought I’d never have to do again have probably now expired!

Any pre show rituals or traditions?

I always visit Jem before the curtain goes up. And I have a few silly little things that I do with certain cast and crew members. Especially Mike, Hitman, our head Fly Man! For the first time, while we were in New Zealand, I had someone up on the same level as me whilst I was preset in the bubble. Now, even though he’s back on the floor, neither of us feel comfortable starting a show without our little moment. Sometimes I get YMCA…if he’s in a good mood 😉

And finally – at the moment, what are you most grateful for?

I am grateful for many things in my life. My beautiful family and friends, the life we have in Australia, the people that have taken time to teach, nurture and encourage me. Career wise though, I am grateful for that first phone call in January 2008 telling me I had been given the offer of swing in WICKED and the day I was offered Sophie in Mamma Mia! The last 6 years would never have happened without those two phone calls. Being a swing taught me so much and playing Sophie gave me a foot in the door to the world of leading ladies.

Perhaps I’m sentimental because it’s all coming to an end for me, but I couldn’t imagine the last few years without having the magic of WICKED as part of my life. I have performed this show, in some capacity, in 9 different cities- five in Australia and four Internationally, with many different people walking in and out of the journey. I have learnt so much about myself as a performer and grown so much as a person. I’m incredibly grateful for all things green!

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Author

Chris is currently performing in the International Tour of Wicked (GFO/Universal).Other theatre credits include Doctor Zhivago, The Chaos Fairy, The Pirates of Penzance, Jekyll and Hyde, and Floyd Collins.A graduate of NIDA, Chris toured the USA with the Original Cast of Frank and Bryant’s The Silver Donkey (Echelon), including playing an Off-Broadway season with The York Theatre Company. He was a Grand Finalist in the 7th Annual Cabaret Showcase and also the 2nd Aussie Theatre Rising Star Award. He can soon be seen in Gavin Creel's music video debut entitled Make Some Noise, shot on location in NYC with all profits going to Broadway Impact.TV credits include: Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Wicked Science, Guinevere Jones, Thunderstone, Carols by Candlelight and Sunrise.

Chris has written 10 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by