Oliver Savile recently joined the West End production of Wicked as Fiyero, whilst Daniel Hope took over as Boq after understudying the role for a year.
Telling the untold story of the Witches of Oz, Wicked is currently the 9th longest-running show in the West End. The musical recently entered its tenth year at the Apollo Victoria Theatre where the cast is led by Emma Hatton as Elphaba and Savannah Stevenson as Glinda.
Olivier recently left the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera where he understudied the role of Raoul for a year at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
His credits also include: Rum Tum Tugger in Cats (UK tour), Fueilly and understudy Enjolras in Les Misérables (Queen's), Peter Tork in Monkee Business (UK tour), understudy Sky in Mamma Mia! (International tour), Prince Charming in Sleeping Beauty (Theatre Royal Wakefield) and Simeon/understudy Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK tour).
Daniel recently created the role of White Rabbit in Alice: A New Musical at the St James Studio. His theatre credits also include: understudy Alan & Rory in Bare: A Pop Opera (Greenwich Theatre), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Birmingham Hippodrome) and Peter in Peter Pan (Rotherham Civic).
I recently sat down with Oliver and Daniel backstage at the Apollo Victoria Theatre to discuss their new roles in Wicked, why they both always wanted to be a part of the musical and what it’s like to receive such an incredible response from audiences…
You’ve both had a crazy couple of months, have you had the chance to take it all in?
Oliver Savile: It has been mad!
Daniel Hope: I was very lucky to have been in the ensemble last year. The rehearsal process was really good because it gave me the time to make it my own and go back to basics so I could find new things. When you do cover rehearsals you don’t get as much time to invest in the character as when you’re playing the role full time. It was nice to go through that process.
OS: And you were doubling up for four weeks!
DH: Yes, I was rehearsing during the day and still doing the show at night. It was tiring but I like being busy!
OS: I came straight from Phantom and doubled up for a week. It was mental to do this during the day and then go back to Phantom as night! The rehearsal process was amazing and everybody has been great – we’ve had a lot of fun.
OS: We have a nice team, there’s a really great vibe at the moment.
OS: I saw it almost ten years ago with Adam Garcia and Idina Menzel and said ‘I want to do that’. He was amazing so I have big old boots to fill! I came down to London with my friend Callum Francis. We saved up and drove down on the mega bus – it was disgusting [laughs] – from Manchester. I literally said “I want to do that” and ten years later I am!
DH: I was quite late, I didn’t see the show for ages. I couldn’t get down to London because I didn’t have any money [laughs], but then my college back in Newcastle took us on a trip down to London. We saw Oliver and Wicked… and I was just blown away. I saw Boq – this little character – and I was like, “Oh my god! I need to do that!” I just loved it! Then I kept coming back and kept thinking ‘I need to do this, I need to do this’… and then it finally happened [laughs].
OS: When I came out of college and started working I was never in the loop for auditioning, I always missed out on it. It’s only in the last couple of years that I got to audition and I decided ‘This has to happen’. It’s one of those milestones in my career I’ve always wanted. It’s weird – I’m absolutely chuffed!
DH: It’s such a life changing thing, especially because the show is so established now. It’s so nice to say you’re a part of its history.
When you got that phone call from your agent saying ‘They want you to be Fiyero…’ or ‘They want you to take over as Boq…’ how did you both react?
OS: Honestly, do you want me to tell you what I actually did?
OS: I burst into tears! I was an absolute mess! It was more relief actually, I was just so happy. Out of everything I’ve ever got I just couldn’t believe this one. My agent said, “Ok calm down, call me back in about half an hour and we’ll talk about what’s actually going on.” My girlfriend was the first person I told – she said, “What is wrong?! Who has died?!” I was like, “Nobody, I just got offered Wicked and they’ve actually given me a part… what the…!”
DH: [laughs] …you think ’they trust me!’
OS: I honestly couldn’t believe it!
DH: The first year I got it I was doing promo at London Fashion Week handing out magazines and not enjoying it because I was obviously out of work. I got the phone call and couldn’t believe it, I think I was swearing a little bit in the street…
OS: …’I quit!’
DH: …I just wanted to throw down the magazines, but I was still unemployed for two months [laughs]. Then a photographer who was next to me went, “Ooo what’s happened?” I replied, “I’ve just got a job” and he said, “Oh… I thought you’d just had a baby or something”. This time I was lying in my garden when my agent rang and I just said, “Stop it… stop it now” because it didn’t feel real at all.
OS: It still doesn’t feel real!
DH: I know – you have to keep pinching yourself, don’t you? It’s really crazy!
Oliver as Fiyero with Emma Hatton as Elphaba
Well it’s definitely happening!
OS: I know… tell me about it! There’s no turning back now, they’ve made the costumes [both laugh]!
DH: Because it was such a transitional period for me, to begin with it just felt like I was still covering. I had never been on for longer than a week and a half before, so when we got past that point I kind of realised ‘Oh… this is my job now’. I remember coming in on the Monday for our second week and in my mind I was thinking I was back to my ensemble track but obviously I wasn’t – it’s really bizarre!
How have you both gone about putting your own stamp on your roles?
OS: With shows like this – such as Les Mis, Phantom and Mamma Mia – they work for a reason. You know when you take the gig that you’re going to be filling somebody else’s shoes. If it’s not broke don’t fix it, so there’s that to contend with. I did feel a little bit of pressure because there are so many good people who have played Fiyero. I approached it as ‘I’m just going to do what I was employed to do’. You do put your own stamp on it, you try to push and pull and say things differently. At the end of the day I am going to do it differently to how Adam Garcia did it because I am not Adam Garcia. And I haven’t got Idina Menzel, I’ve got Emma Hatton who is going to react to things in a completely different way.
DH: You naturally find things along the way and you think ‘oh I like that, I’ll try and work with that’. You can speak to the director and see if something works – they will tell you straight away if it doesn’t!
What’s the atmosphere like backstage at the Apollo Victoria?
OS: We have a great bunch of people who are very supportive. I don’t know if I should say this, but everybody wants to be here. It isn’t unheard of in a long-running show, but sometimes things can get stale – Wicked definitely doesn’t feel like that.
DH: Not at all, even the people who have been here for a few years are still loving it every single night. It’s a really good quality to have because it makes everyone else want to be better.
OS: Doing the same thing eight times a week is hard! Everyone has been amazing, I know it’s only been a few weeks, but it feels so different to anything else I’ve ever done.
What are Emma and Savannah like to work with?
What are Emma and Savannah like to work with?
DH: They are amazing!
OS: I can’t believe I get to fall in love with both of them every night, like what the hell?! How lucky am I?!
DH: …and snog both of them!
OS: It’s alright [laughs].
DH: I don’t get to snog either of them… I just chase them [laughs].
OS: [jokingly] Sorry mate! They have been great, this is Savannah’s third contract but it feels like it’s her first. There’s nothing that we haven’t tried, she has been so accommodating and so supportive. Emma was doing the part for six months before we got here. For her this is sort of like her first year in the role and she has been incredible. She is so, so talented!
DH: She’s so solid – every night she gives the same performance with the same vocals. She’s amazing!
OS: And Savannah as well, it’s fresh and different every night too. You can tell that both of them are really enjoying every second.
Daniel, what is it like to be working with Katie who is the original West End Nessa?
OS: [jokingly] Pressure!
DH: Ah I know! I was so scared before I came in because she has done it for so long and knows where it is supposed to be. Whereas if it was a new person coming in I would have felt more like, ‘Well I know what I’m doing’. It has been scary but she is amazing! She’s just so funny and we get along really well. You would never know that this is her sixth contract! She’s incredible every single night.
And you get to keep your geordie accent!
DH: I’m very, very lucky! I wanted to put my own stamp on the part somehow, so it’s really nice that they let me keep my accent.
OS: Sadly they wouldn’t let me do Fiyero northern [both laugh].
DH: I love being able to keep a part of home and bring it into the show. How often do you get to do that? There aren’t many geordie characters in the West End… apart from Billy Elliot… but I’m not in the right casting bracket for that.
OS: I think you would be a great Billy!
DH: Well I auditioned when I was about eleven but my voice was just starting to break… so that was that out the window [laughs].
So the million dollar question – what do you think is the key to Wicked’s global success?
OS: I had a show watch during rehearsals and was a mess! It still looks shiny – the orchestra are amazing and the set looks brand new. I love that there’s actual day time in it, whereas Phantom and Les Mis are all set at night in the dark [laughs]. I’ve spoken to the crew who do the same thing eight times a week and they’ve said that if they’re having a down day when they hear the music it just picks them back up again. The music is epic!
Emma Hatton as Elphaba
DH: It’s so timeless, and really cleverly written. The lyrics are absolutely amazing and the story has a message which people relate to. It has a bit of everything. When it gets to the Emerald City it becomes like a totally different show – it’s a huge journey. There are so many different elements and themes.
OS: The costumes are like nothing else in any other show. I love the Shiz uniform that I wear as Fiyero, we were told that your character has gone into the shop and said “I want that sleeve and that lapel off that jacket.” If you look at the Shiz costumes nothing is straight, everything is at an angle or sideways or back to front and there are guys wearing skirts.
The detail is phenomenal!
OS: It’s insane!
DH: And you don’t even see half of it until you’re up close. Morrible has a ring which has tiny little cogs in that we wouldn’t even be able to see onstage!
OS: I didn’t even know that!
DH: That’s the thing – it wasn’t until about half way through last year that I noticed it. The thread on each of the guards’ outfits is real gold thread. They could have just used normal thread, but they only use the best. It’s crazy!
Do you have any favourite moments in the show?
DH: I love the Governor’s Mansion scene because Boq hasn’t been onstage since the first act and so much backstory has gone on in-between. When he explodes you realise how much has gone on within that time you haven’t seen. It’s really nice to be able to invest in that. The underscore is unbelievable, especially when Katie stands up and sings “Lost your heart”. The guitar solo is insane! I remember I used to be obsessed with that guitar solo, it just cuts in and the whole mood suddenly changes. It’s so effective!
OS: Well… obviously ‘Dancing Through Life’ and ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ [laughs].
You get to come in and completely change the rhythm of the show with ‘Dancing Through Life’, what is it like to perform?
OS: It’s weird because I get to do the opening which I LOVE! That’s when I feel like I’m actually in Wicked! Afterwards I go off for twenty-five minutes, sit in my dressing room and get my little tight joggers on, do my hair and don’t see anybody. Then suddenly I go down to the stage and it’s like BANG, I’m fronting this massive number. A few minutes before I’m just sitting down having a cup of tea [laughs]. It’s epic, the whole number is about fifteen minutes long. I just love it! I have to say, it’s only been this past week that I haven’t been completely out of breath afterwards. I look up and Dan’s just stood on the steps with a drink [both laugh].
DH: I used to dance it last year..!
OS: To sing a song and not think about the audience, to not think about anyone else and just literally sing it with someone else face to face is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done! I’ve never seen or done anything else like it in another show. There hasn’t been a night so far where I’ve thought ‘There are two and a half thousand people watching us do this’. It’s like they’re having a little insight into what Fiyero and Elphaba are doing. It’s so weird to perform but I love it!
Right, time for a stagey question! I’m sending you to a desert island and you can only take three musical theatre songs with you. What are you going to take and why?
DH: I would take ‘Somebody To Love’… I love the Rock You version but I would probably want Freddie’s version [laughs]. Nobody can beat Freddie! I would take ‘Candy Store’ from Heathers because it’s just as sassy as anything – if you’re having a down day you can put it on and listen to it over and over again, it’s hilarious! And… at the minute… I would take ‘Raise a Little Hell’ from Bonnie and Clyde because it’s epic. He goes crazy, doesn’t he?! Especially in the reprise [laughs]. I would put them together and take that [both laugh].
OS: I love ‘Go the Distance’ from Hercules, I bet most boys say that. I just want to be Hercules [both laugh]! It’s the song I take to most auditions and I enjoy singing it – but not the Michael Bolton version. Hmmm… I’m going to go with what is on my iPhone. This is really embarrassing and really stagey, but I would take ‘Never Never Land’ from Finding Neverland. I hope that comes over! Even before I started Wicked I would have said ‘No Good Deed’ because I frickin’ love that song. It’s epic!
DH: …and I love how many different versions there are! Like every Elphaba sings it differently – you can do so much with it. If your voice goes there you can just go crazy. We’ll be fine on that desert island!
OS: So stagey [laughs]!
Oliver, how was your year understudying Raoul in Phantom?
OS: What a dream! I got to wear a really expensive suit, jump off a bridge and have fire thrown at me! What an epic time! It was awesome, what a lovely building! I got to sit next to the amazing Philip Griffiths all year. He’s been in the show for twenty-five years! What a lovely man. I didn’t think I would do Phantom that early on in my career, I have to say. It was a snap decision because I was offered first cover Fiyero in Wicked last year and decided to go with Phantom. It was a big, big decision for me not to do Wicked… but it all worked out!
Daniel as Boq with Katie Rowley Jones as Nessa
Finally, what is it like to have so much dedicated support behind you from the crazy theatre world?
DH: It’s mental! With Wicked it just shows how much the show means to people, and how much you really get into their lives.
OS: I love the support and think it’s amazing what these shows do for people – because it did it for me! But I also find it hard because I feel like ‘Who am I?’ Of course I’m always happy to sign anything at stage door and take pictures and stay for a chat, but I always think ‘Why me?!’
DH: I know! But then you have to think back and when I watched Alex Jessop play Boq for the first time I got a photo with him. I was so, so excited waiting at the stage door when I was seventeen!
You’ve both come round in a full circle!
DH: It’s crazy!
OS: That’s where it all starts, you have to remember that for most people it’s their first time seeing the show so if you’re giving them that spark you’re doing your job. The first show I ever saw was Blood Brothers and I was like… ‘You can do this as a job? I would like to give that a go!’ That’s how it starts!
DH: …and then you realise how much hard work has got to come between then and being here now [laughs]. But it’s worth it, isn’t it?
OS: It’s totally worth it! I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Wicked is currently booking at the Apollo Victoria Theatre until Saturday 5th November 2016.
Please visit www.wickedthemusical.co.uk for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit 2: Darren Bell
Production photos by Matt Crockett