Backstage for Wicked: Witch costumes, hair and make-up

AUCKLAND, New Zealand –  The mean, green, evil witch of Oz is coming to Manila for the musical, Wicked.

What does it take to bring the mythical land to life onstage? G Töngi joins the production’s wardrobe and makeup heads backstage as they walk through how they make theater magic.

I’m here onstage at the iconic Civic Theater in New Zealand to get to talk to the people behind the magic of Wicked!

Paul Flanagan, Head of Wardrobe talks to us about the costumes for the witches of Wicked and shares some interesting trivia!

PAUL FLANAGAN, 'WICKED' HEAD OF WARDROBE: We have 380 costumes and each costume comes with its own shoes and gloves and hats and glasses. This is Glinda’s bubble dress.

G TÖNGI: Okay so why don’t you show us some of the most iconic ones?

FLANAGAN: This way then! This is Glinda’s bubble dress

G TÖNGI: It looks heavy.

FLANAGAN: It is heavy. Here.

G TÖNGI: Oh my goodness, it is heavy!

FLANAGAN: Yeah she has to wear that for a couple of hours and act and sing. And she’s only little. In designing this, the designer Susan Hilferty wanted to connect Glinda very much to the sky and the stars and rainbows because in coming up with the design concept for the show, she spoke to a lot of little girls about what “good” means, what “good” looks like and they kept saying things like princesses and brides so she took her cue from them. So all of Glinda’s stuff is kinda looks lightweight and it’s frilly and it’s full of layers. Elphaba on the other hand, the Wicked Witch, is heavier and darker and she’s connected very much, from Susan’s point of view, she’s very connected to the earth and seams of minerals rolling through the ground and opals. And designing the iconic Wicked Witch dress, she wanted to create like a stalactite that has seams of ore running through it and when you put the wicked witch hat on top, that’s exactly what she looks like and again, it’s heavy.

G TÖNGI: It is very very heavy.

FLANAGAN: But underneath, with this girl, underneath, while this one is full of layers, this one underneath is quite clean so that she can run and duck and crouch down and get up and fight. So she’s made it easy for the actress to wear this because she wears this for all of act two.

G TÖNGI: So what are the fun trivias about being in costume? So many, I'm sure!

FLANAGAN: Okay the quick change out of this (bubble dress) into her shiz uniform is about 15-16 seconds.

G TÖNGI: 15 seconds to get out of this dress?

FLANAGAN: 15 seconds to get out of it and in to another costume entirely with a wig change at the same time.

G TÖNGI: Really and how many people are helping her do that?

FLANAGAN: Two.

G TÖNGI: I see.

FLANAGAN: And for both of these girls, getting out of their Shiz unifoms and into their Emerald City costumes is 14 seconds and it’s a full costume change. You’ve seen the show?

G TÖNGI: Yes I’ve seen the show.

FLANAGAN: Do you remember at the beginning of Emerald City, they'd run off and then they'd run back in and they'd be in completely different outfits? Complete costume change.

G TÖNGI: So we’re here with Kelly Ritchie, head of hair and makeup. So Kelly, tell us, when you say you “dress a wig”, what does that mean? 

KELLY RITCHIE , 'WICKED' HEAD OF HAIR & MAKEUP: That basically means we’ll set the hair in rollers and once the hair is set, we’ll take it out and dress the hair up into the style that’s intended to be.

G TÖNGI: And you have about 70 wigs in the show?

RITCHIE: That go onstage every night, yes.

G TÖNGI: Okay and then you were also saying how these wigs cost 2-7000 dollars.

RITCHIE: Yeah absolutely because these wigs are individually hand knotted and made to fit the performers actual hairline and head and they take 18-40 hours to make one wig. And price also depends on length, color, blonde hair is more expensive cause its actually a lot harder to use in the process. 

G TÖNGI: So how do you secure the wig on the head of the actors?

RITCHIE: For this particular wig, we have something called geisha pins which are basically much thicker and heavier, long U pins. Basically this.


G TÖNGI: So these are called geisha pins. So they would attach this on to the wig and on to their scalp.

RITCHIE: Yeah absolutely so there’s a cage on the inside of the wig there that’s attached so then you pin into the cage so the girls underneath have something called a wig prep so they actually prep their own hair into pincurls and then we put a stocking cap on top of that and then we have a base to pin into.

You wanna come over here? Basically we have a pancake makeup from MAC with landscape green and we have these awesomely huge brushes. We put water in there. The secret is getting the right consistency water to product ratio which can take a little time when you’re learning to do it. So we whip it onto the skin. We have a base, a foundation base underneath as well so it doesn’t grab on too much on the performer's skin.

G TÖNGI: And they can sweat through this?

RITCHIE: We use a cream base makeup on the top of that as well and then we set the product with powder. A lot of powder. There are times, especially with their hands, cause they're using a lot in the show like the broomstick and the suitcase, their fingertips will come off and rub a bit so then we reapply in interval but generally our Elphaba, Jemma, doesn’t sweat so basically nothing really moves which is great. And then we have.. once we’ve popped the green on and set that, we do a lot of highlighting and shading which are also MAC products so we use whats called Purple Haze which is purple and we do that for all the shading and contouring which marries really well with the green and then we have a highlighter called Vanilla which is really nice creamy white which then marries perfectly with the purple and the green.

G TÖNGI: So Kelly tell us, how long does the makeup process take for Elphaba, from start to finish?

KELLY RITCHIE , 'WICKED' HEAD OF HAIR & MAKEUP: From start to finish, it can take up to about 25 minutes to 45 minutes.

Don’t miss the Manila tour of the Wicked production to see the bedazzling costumes, elaborate wigs and iconic green Elphaba makeup!
G Töngi, Rappler.

For a better look at Wicked, watch exclusive interviews with Jay Laga’aia who plays the Wizard, Suzie Mathers, who plays Glinda the Good Witch, David Young, Wicked's musical director and the rest of the cast.

Based on Gregory Maguire's novel with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Wicked will run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines from January 22, 2014 to February 23, 2014. – Rappler.com