Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Iconic Elphaba Is a Green Dream Role for Ashleigh ; Smash-Hit Musical Wicked Arrives in Salford Next Week

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Iconic Elphaba Is a Green Dream Role for Ashleigh ; Smash-Hit Musical Wicked Arrives in Salford Next Week

Article excerpt

NOT many, apart from maybe Shrek and Princess Fiona, can say they spend their working life caked in green paint.

"The hardest place to get it off is behind my ears," says Ashleigh Gray, who plays Elphaba in the UK tour of Wicked.

"I've been in the queue in the post office and had people staring at me, it's funny as I forget I am green most of the time."

Gray describes that unforgettable green skin as 'another layer' to Elphaba - one of the most iconic female musical characters of all time.

It's a role that made an Emmy Award winner out of Idina Mezel, who was the first actress to play the wicked-or-maybe-not-sowicked- in-the-end Witch of the West on Broadway.

And Edinburgh-born Gray is all too aware of the responsibility she has taken on as she tours the country playing the weirdly gifted witch.

The star, who picked up the Elphaba mantle full time from Nikki Davis-Jones last autumn, said: "It is really daunting but since I saw the show on Broadway in 2004, I knew in my heart I had to play Elphaba some day.

"There's so much to her.

She's innocent but also strong and feisty - she's exhausting but I love playing her.

"Luckily I gradually built my way into Elphaba as I was standby for the West End show. She's amazing and I just want to do her justice."

Gray arrives in Manchester next week from Aberdeen, flanked by a convoy of 12 giant trucks needed to transport the huge West End- scale production around the country.

Like with the touring version of The Lion King, great lengths have gone into making sure none of the magic or scale of London version has been lost for the audiences coming to see this show.

Gray, who trained at Guildford School of Acting, said: "It's amazing how they've managed to keep the show so true to the West End version.

"It's understandable to be sceptical; but nothing has been scaled down. It's a grand show and it wouldn't work otherwise. …

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