Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Rachel Interview -- November 2007

Well I'd considered taking a leaf out of Rachel's book and having a few well-earned days off, but Michael from Belfast just sent me an email, pointing out two interesting Rachel interviews.

Both featured in Belfast newspaper the News Letter and the first is from November 2007.

For obvious reasons, Rachel's Oz experience has already been featured heavily on our blog, but I think this unique interview merits a mention.

The article does not have an accompanying photo, so we've added one from the 'ScenicIreland' professional photographer collection. As before, please don't put this photo on other sites as it's authorised for our blog only.


BRINGING a classic children's story to the stage, The Wizard of Oz is promising something magical at the Lyric Theatre over Christmas.

A tale that has enchanted, delighted and, at times, scared the wits out of children on the big screen comes to life in Belfast over the festive season.Rachel Tucker plays Dorothy Gale, who is the leading character and the human centre in the insane world of Oz.

"If I don't believe what's happening around me then the audience won't believe it," Rachel said of her role in the show. "To Dorothy, this isn't a dream - and that means there is no room for error on my part."

She is the all-too-human character in a fantasy, and the 26-year-old Belfast actor takes the audience on a dramatic journey.

For those who grew up with the film version of The Wizard Of Oz the story will be very familiar.
The show starts out in the black and white of Kansas before moving to the technicolour world of Oz and the Yellow Brick Road. On the way, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion as she tries to find her way back home.

"It's very like the film - there have to be a few differences for the stage, but it's quite similar," Rachel said. "As an actor I don't want to be playing Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, I want to play Dorothy. But people are also expecting to hear the sounds of the film. You do it in your own way and I think there's a nice balance between familiar and new elements here."

While Rachel is no stranger to leading roles, the 26-year-old Belfast actor said this was her most demanding yet.

"I'm still finding things in the lines when I'm rehearsing, and that's a lovely feeling," she said. "There is a lot expected of me - and the other actors as well – but it's non-stop. I had to learn how to pace myself throughout this."

And the pacing includes the many memorable songs which are scattered throughout the piece.

"With Somewhere Over The Rainbow we've keep it very simple and in the spirit of how it was written," Rachel said. "It's just another song rather than something to be milked, and hopefully it fits into the show rather than sticking out."

With other members of her family involved in various productions, Rachel grew up surrounded by the stage.

"I've always loved singing, but my sister took me along to her first production –which was also The Wizard Of Oz – and I was amazed by the whole thing. I became fascinated with acting after that, I just couldn't believe it was all happening on stage in front of me. That got me hooked."
She joked: "And I'm a show-off at heart."

As well as the on-stage actors in the production, this Wizard Of Oz will feature Liam Neeson in the title role. The famous Northern Irish actor recorded his parts in New York earlier this year, and they are now played as part of the show each night.

"We were in awe when we first heard his voice," Rachel said. "It's as if he's in the room talking to you – we'd rather he was actually on stage with us, of course, but it's fabulous that he has a part in the play."

As the patron of The Lyric, it means Liam will have a role in the final production in the existing theatre.

"I would love to meet him, so maybe if he comes to see it over Christmas I will," Rachel said.

And another notable cast-member is Toto the dog.

"We have three very adorable cairn terriers working with us," Rachel said. "They have key scenes and they are very well behaved, in the main. On a bad day, though, they can be divas," she joked. "I love dogs, and it's a great experience working with them," Rachel added.

Getting used to working with animals was just part of the rehearsal process and, even as the show is being staged, the cast members are refining their parts.

"It's a rollercoaster - there have been full days of remembering dances and harmonies. And that learning doesn't stop," Rachel said.

Though she can get in and out of the role with ease now.

"I can switch off after a performance, but I can switch it on just as easily on stage."

Of course, it requires a certain amount of concentration and discipline to be a good actor.

"Sometimes random things pop into your head, and inside I'm like 'C'mon Rachel, you're on stage'. But you have to keep your focus at all times."

The Wizard Of Oz is a show that Rachel says the whole family will be able to enjoy.

"I'm sure some of the younger theatregoers don't even know the story and then you have parents who are very familiar with it," Rachel said. But she added the themes of the piece would resonate with young and old, while the visual spectacle makes for a memorable show for everyone.

"It's very child-like, and centres around the idea of how parents don't believe children's dreams and fantasies. "But it's all so real for Dorothy – and I think that to be able to believe in fairy tales is a great thing."

* The Wizard Of Oz continues at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, until January 12, 2008. For tickets and more information contact the box office on 9038 1081 or log on to www.lyrictheatre.co.uk.

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