Michael Cross

Interview: Emily Tierny as Wicked's Glinda The Good Witch

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Emily as Glinda in the bubble dress.

Emily as Glinda in the bubble dress.

A self-confessed beach bum and from a family of two sisters and a brother – which she describes as “the Von Trapps” – Emily Tierny talks about playing Glinda in Wicked. She has been playing girly-Glinda for the last 18 months, and is flying to Sunderland Empire at the end of March for three weeks.

From Chichester on the south coast, Emily had her acting epiphany at 5-years-old when watching a Tim Rice musical. Since then she has worked up the acting ranks, from playing Joseph in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at 13 and cutting her hair like a boy, to joining the Wicked ensemble and being the understudy for Nessa Rose. Eventually she auditioned for another part in the show, before begging the directors to consider her for the role of Glinda.

Now she is 18 months into playing the powerhouse that is Glinda The Good Witch, which is her second time playing the role; the first saw her in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s The Wizard Of Oz, playing a mature version of the good witch.

Emily describes Wicked’s Glinda as a “spoilt brat with a nutty and mental side”. Emily also brings elements of her own personality to the character. She says she brings a “bit of bonkers” to the role, allowing her to “have as much fun as possible”.

The show now only allows just Emily to express her entire acting repertoire of emotions, but for the audience to experience them alongside her and the cast. The first half sees Glinda “petulant and child-like”, and also rather comical when singing Popular. The second half is a stark contrast, where Glinda is more grown up, and sees her sing For Good with Ashleigh Gray who plays Elphaba. Emily says it’s “simple and lovely, as it’s just the two of us on stage and packed full of emotion”.

The beginning of the play sees Glinda arrive in her chosen mode of transport, the bubble, which Emily says is one of the most “special” moments for her as she can look out onto the audience for the first time. The opening scene also holds her favourite costume – a sky blue ball gown with sequins and crystals, with starburst staff and matching tiara – something that reduced Emily to tears at her fitting for the role.

The play is about the evolving friendship between Emily’s character and Elphaba. It sees them through school where you encounter Madame Morrible – the headmistress at Shiz University – who Emily would like to play if given the chance, as well as Doctor Dillamond – the school’s talking goat professor. The second half is darker and more turbulent and puts Glinda and Elphaba’s friendship to the test.

Emily’s characterisation of Glinda is a reasonably quick process, and “something I’ve got down to a fine art of about 30 minutes, involving hair and make-up, but also my vocal warm up”.

Her normal day starts at mid-day “as that’s when I tend to surface”, followed by breakfast and yoga as “that keeps me relaxed”. Throughout the day she tours the city where she is, which is currently Bristol. Her brother William Tierny, who is currently in the touring production of Dreamboats And Petticoats, has told Emily where to go when she comes to Sunderland. Her first destination is “to hunt out the beach”, as that’s one of her favourite places to be.

Wicked is a play of a nurturing friendship, love and what happened before Dorothy Gale blew into the fairy tale land of Oz and red shoes were the must have item of clothing. It tells the tale that it’s ok to be different and to embrace your uniqueness. But ultimately, as Emily describes, it’s about “a magical adventure in Oz”.

Emily and Ashleigh as Glinda and Elphaba

Emily and Ashleigh as Glinda and Elphaba.

Wicked comes to the Sunderland Empire on March 31 until April 25. Tickets are available from £15.#####

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