But despite the job being everything a stage actor ever desires, there are, of course, struggles to a life on the road: packing a year’s worth of stuff into two suitcases, lacking the small comforts of home, adjusting to new cuisines and acclimating to all kinds of weather and (ahem) air qualities. They share that you just never quite feel ‘settled’, which in turn makes it difficult to really relax. But all in all, the three insist that the positives – the opportunity to see the world and do what they most love, foremost – completely outweigh the negatives, and always do.
In the big scheme of things, being away from home for so long is small sacrifice for the actors. ’A year in forever is nothing,’ says Jaden. ‘To be given this career opportunity, to be paid to travel the globe with such an incredible, world-renowned show – it’s just a no-brainer.’ For all of them, it’s a chance they’re confident will never come again, particularly because they get over a month in each place; enough time to immerse themselves in new cultures and experiences in their spare time rather than merely being tourists.
Even after landing the starring parts in the play, the three are still astounded and awed by the idea that they’re the faces of a production that’s become a global phenomenon. For Hughes, Anderson and Jaden alike, these are their first leading roles. As they explain, it’s very rare for a production of this size to give three understudies the leads, and anything but a given – they’ve all worked for years towards this goal without ever being sure that it was achievable. And in the end, to be chosen to perform the roles of such iconic stage figures is not only an honour, but a tremendous compliment.
At the time Jaden received the call about Wicked, he was performing in Les Miserables, and had planned for that role to be his last. He says that ‘hand to heart’, he believed it to be the peak of his career, and felt that not in a million years would he be given a role like Fiyero. But despite feeling that the role was out of his league, it happened. ‘If someone said to me tomorrow, “you can’t sing anymore,” I’d reply that I’ve surpassed any dream that I thought possible.’
For the star witches, the sentiments are the same: Hughes says that leading the cast as Elphaba is something beyond even her wildest dream, while Anderson remarks that had she been told a year ago that she’d being playing Glinda, she would’ve bet against it with every penny she had. The three are living the dream.
We also inquire a bit about the stars’ quirkier sides. We learn that Hughes feels totally freaked out being onstage without a spritz of her favourite perfume and a cough sweet in hand, while Anderson gets a bit panicky if she hasn’t gotten her pin curls done up before warm-ups. Jaden, on the other hand, tries to steer away from superstitions and needful things, but admits it’s a known fact that before going on stage for ‘As Long as You’re Mine’, he has the habit of singing the song to himself in the toilet.
Wicked is at the SAIC Shanghai Culture Square from Tuesday 11 April - Sunday 14 May. See full details and buy tickets below.