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Blonde ‘mathlete’ is ‘Wicked’ witch

By: - Reporter
/ 11:13 PM November 10, 2013

AUSTRALIAN actress Suzie Mathers onstage as Glinda, in the Broadway musical that comes to Manila in January. She’s looking forward to hitting famous Philippine beaches and buying “amazing” pearls. Photo by Maye E Wong

AUCKLAND, New Zealand—“One thing I’ve noticed about being blonde is that people think I’m dumb,” said Australia-based actress Suzie Mathers, who plays the beautiful witch Glinda in the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

In a black mini-dress with gold thread embroidery, Mathers sat down with Inquirer and gamely answered questions.

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“People think I’m a bit of a princess. I find this weird. I think the world has a tendency to stereotype,” Mathers said. “Even though they refer to me as ‘blonde and beautiful,’ I don’t really see that in myself outside of the show.”

What she often does is “try to slip into conversations that I went to a university… and I feel people catch on pretty quickly.”

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Mathers was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and moved to Australia with her family when she was six. According to a biography posted on her Facebook fan page, Mathers has a natural gift for numbers. “That’s just how my brain works. Numbers are easy for me, so I did all math [subjects] and accounting… but I did like to sing,” she said.

Her career in musical theater started with a spot in an amateur production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  In 2007, she graduated with a degree in music theater from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. While in college, she performed in various productions such as “The Good Fight” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”

In 2008, she made her professional musical theater debut in the original Australian cast of “Wicked.” She then left to join “Mamma Mia” for its 10th anniversary Australian tour. A year later, she returned to “Wicked” to portray the Midwife and eventually took over the role of Glinda, particularly for the Australasian tour.

Photo by Juho Sim

Glinda the Good Witch of the South is a character in the “Land of Oz” mythology, created by American author L. Frank Baum. In the musical “Wicked: The Untold Story of Oz,” Glinda is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. She forms an unlikely friendship with the green-skinned and misunderstood Elphaba, who later becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.

Mathers described the cast and crew as her second family. “[They] taught me a lot about the industry, about professionalism, and going places through hard work. The company has really nurtured me,” she said.

“When I see the girl now wearing my previous costumes, I sometimes remember what it used to be like for me,” she added. “I’ve come a long way—I’m now wearing a different costume, and that really means something.”

In real life, are you more of a Glinda or an Elphaba?

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I’m both because I was never really the popular girl at school. If anything, I was the Elphaba at school—that awkward teenage girl. I was a bit of a tomboy. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but, at the same time, I love pink, I’m blonde and I’m smiley. I think I’m a nice mix of the two characters.

What’s your favorite song and character from the show?

My favorite song to sing would have to be “Popular” because it’s so much fun. My favorite song to watch or to be part of that’s not really mine is “Defying Gravity.” I love Glinda and she’s an interesting character to play, but I like Elphaba because she’s such a strong, good example of a character. I think people who come to see the show can identify so much with her.

How much does the show change when different actors play Elphaba?

BEAUTIFUL BLONDE Just before we sat down for this interview.

A lot of it changes, but it’s nothing the audience would notice. The relationships I have with the Elphabas are so different. Jemma and I have known each other for five years. We’ve shared a dressing room together and we’re extremely close friends. I only started working with (new cast member) Ali Calder when we got to New Zealand.

Is it difficult working with someone you hardly know?

It’s not difficult. The best thing about it is that Ali keeps things fresh; she gives me new things. It’s still the same magic, the same relationship between the two girls. However, it’s onstage that I feel different because I’m reacting to a line differently. I really like that.

How do you manage to perform with the same intensity each night?

I don’t do much on my day off. I rest a lot. I sleep in. I make sure I eat well. This thing about the theater, no matter how tired you feel, the minute you walk into your dressing room and out on stage, you forget all of that. It’s like you walk out there and all the worries of the world go away and you become your character. It’s the most incredible feeling! You forget that you’re exhausted.

What do your family and friends think about your performance?

My mom was here a couple of weeks ago and she told me she’s so proud—I’m not sure if she’s prouder of me or of herself because she goes around and introduces herself as “Glinda’s mom.” She saw the show three nights in a row. She said, “I didn’t really like the ticket I had on Friday night. I was at the end of the row. I only had one person to tell to that I’m your mom. I had no one on the other side.” It’s like she’d lost bragging rights on one side and she wasn’t happy.

All my friends and family are so supportive. It’s really great.

What do you look forward to the most in your Manila visit?

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Manila. I’m planning on getting myself a travel book. I’ve just been told that I need to buy pearls because they are amazing there. I’m also looking forward to going to the beach, to the warm weather. Sadly, we only get one off-day in a week.

We’ve already got such a great fan base in Manila. We know we have a great support network over there. I just think it will be nice to be somewhere else for six weeks.

Do you undergo a process before assuming your character?

I have really bad time management. I’m always late so I’m pretty much in character and then on stage. I get in the costume straight away. The costume really helps. The minute I get into Glinda’s bubble dress, I become her. Every costume helps you get in character. The street costume with its little floaty skirt helps in the way you dance. The “Popular” dress is so little and dainty.

What’s one surprising thing about you?

I used to be a state champion sailor when I was 15 or 16. Every summer, I’d wear a wet suit, knee pads, a pair of booties and then I’d look like a licorice. I had the worse tan lines ever for about 4 or 5 years! [I got involved in sailing] because my family lived up the road from a sailing club. [My siblings and I] eventually became state champions. I also used to ride motorbikes when I was a kid.

“Wicked,” written by Stephen Schwaltz and directed by Lisa Leguillou, will play for a limited season at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines starting Jan. 22, 2014.

The Broadway hit is produced by Marc Platt, David Stone, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and John Frost. It is presented locally by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, 105.9 Radio High, and Concertus in association with Wicked Worldwide. Visit www.wickedthemusical.com.ph for details.

(Email mcruz@inquirer.com.ph)

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TAGS: Broadway, Entertainment, Musical, Suzie Mathers, Wicked
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