And the Wizard is …
Producer John Frost has announced that Simon Gallaher will be the new Wizard for the Brisbane and Perth seasons of the blockbuster musical Wicked.
It’s a rather serendipitous occasion as the Queensland Performing Arts Centre will celebrate its 30th Anniversary next year, as will Simon Gallaher who was in QPAC’s first production when it opened in 1984 with The Pirates of Penzance. In the circle of musical theatre life, Gallaher will again tred the QPAC boards when Wicked opens on that very same week thirty years later.
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, and is the story of how two unlikely friends become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.
The Broadway production’s original stars included Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, and Joel Grey as the Wizard. The Broadway production won three Tony Awards and six Drama Desk Awards, including a Grammy for the cast album.
Our Queensland Correspondent, Bobbi-Lea, caught up with Simon to chat about his new role. In a surprising first, Simon has never taken over a role in his extensive career. Simon will be replacing Reg Livermore for the Brisbane and Perth season and has already been down to Sydney for costume fittings, photos, and to familiarise himself with the show. Gallaher begins rehearsals in two weeks and it will be, “a combination of working with the director, with rehearsals by day and observing Reg by night.”
Wicked first opened at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne in 2008, with the role previously being played by the late Rob Guest, Bert Newton, Jay Laga’aia and now Reg Livermore. Cast with primarily celebrities or actors, Simon’s vocal prowess will bring a unique quality to the Wizard.
When asked about the Wizard’s character, Gallaher said:
“He’s a more complex character than in the movie. In the film he’s just a snake oil salesman, but the musical allows you to explore the complexities a little more than people give the part credit for. If you look at the writing that Stephen Schwartz has given the show overall – the great singing for the leads and even the ensemble – the whole score is fantastic. I want to see that the role is best served in the best possible way.”
A stalwart of the Australian entertainment industry, Simon is a champion for the Brisbane theatre scene and concurrently holds the positions of Trustee of the Queensland Performing Arts Trust (QPAC), Board member of the Queensland Theatre Company, and Chairman of the Harvest Rain Theatre Company.
When asked what has changed over the last thirty years in the industry, Gallaher says, “The caliber of production values are higher – the mechanisation of it, the extension of set design, sound and lighting. It’s a world away from the JCW days.”
But Simon Gallaher is quick to add that in a successful show, “you have to find a balance,” between spectacle and story, but “the story is always superior.”
Running consecutively for eleven years on Broadway, Wicked is the perfect example of the musical spectacular, based in a great story with a superior musical score that Gallaher is talking about.
After its record-breaking run in Melbourne, Wicked plays at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre until January 30, before transferring to the Lyric Theatre at QPAC from 12 February, which will then tour to the Crown Theatre in Perth from 3 May.