Wicked's Willemijn Verkaik's tips for musical stardom
- 11 January 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Willemijn Verkaik has played Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) in Wicked over 1,000 times and performed in the musical on Broadway and now in London.
Dutch-born Verkaik is widely considered to be the "ultimate Elphaba" - one of the most iconic roles in modern musical theatre.
She has also had starring roles in Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You. Here are her top 10 tips for being a musical star.
1.Be thankful for every role you get
I was 24 when I performed in my first musical - a late bloomer as we say in Holland. I was in a band and wanted to try something different. I immediately thought it was a great way of working and I still love it.
I've played the role of Elphaba more than anyone else; over 1,000 times now and for me this is a good thing. I started in Germany, then Holland, then Broadway - the part took me to all those places.
I've been able to travel and meet so many interesting people as a result. I lived in New York for a while and I'm now living in London, which is such an amazing experience. I wouldn't have missed it for the world - I'm so thankful for this role.
2.Enjoy every second
Performing in Wicked on Broadway was a dream come true for me. I never thought that I would be offered a job there - it's amazing. Broadway musicals go way back and have such a history.
All the big stars have performed there. So to be cast and be considered good enough was an honour and I enjoyed every second. It was like doing a pop concert every day - and a great experience.
3.Work hard, be tough and be lucky
You always have to be willing to learn and to work really hard. It's a very tough job, physically as well as vocally. But also, you have to be a tough person and be resilient. If you fall, just get back up again. And you will fall a few times, because there is so much competition and everyone wants to be where you want to be.
You have to ask yourself what makes you special and the only one who can find that out is you. The more you learn from yourself the better. Be willing to have people around you who are very honest and not put you on a pedestal all the time too.
And then of course you need a bit of luck. There are a lot of people out there who are so talented and will not get the chance, so luck does play a big part.
4.Marry someone who will understand
I have a husband and it can be difficult sometimes to spend time together. I travel, I'm on stage six nights a week and not everyone will want to live like that.
It can be a good idea to marry someone in the business who will understand the hours. I see so many people around me who it doesn't work out for. We always say three weeks is the maximum we will go without seeing each other.
I always say Skype has saved our relationship because it means we can still see each other and spend time together, just online.
5.Learn to adjust
I'm someone who adjusts very well, I find it very easy to do. For me to do a contract for a few months or more in a different country is not something that scares me.
I like different countries, languages and cultures. I like to learn a lot about other cities which makes it a bit easier for me maybe.
6.Be at home on the stage
For me, I have a lot of passion for the job. I love being on stage, I sometimes think I feel more at home on stage than off stage. It's because it's just something that I love to do and something I am very secure in.
This role is such hard work every night but it's so rewarding afterwards. It can be a rollercoaster so maybe I'm crazy, but for me it's about passion, otherwise I wouldn't be here.
7.Take care of yourself and get plenty of sleep
It's very important to take good care of yourself. Vocally, I know very well where my limits are and I also know that I need a lot of sleep.
I need to eat healthy food - that kind of thing is very important. You have to look good and I believe that if you feel good you look good. If you take good care of yourself then the rest will follow.
If you understand the story really well, know where you are coming from and where you need to go to as an actor it will make the lines much more logical and easier to learn.
8.Take your make-up off
Taking your make up off is very important, especially when you are green. I don't use a make-up remover as such, I use baby shampoo on my face. It is very soft, doesn't contain soap and works really well for me.
I must admit that it's more difficult to get the colour off my hands - they can still look a bit green for days afterwards. You have to accept having green skin.
9.Be nervous but don't fear rejection
I always get nervous before auditions and I will always be that way - it's good to be nervous. It is part of you really wanting the job and it is very natural, so never worry about that. It's important to be able to control those nerves though.
You have to trust your abilities, work really hard and know you can do it. If you don't get a part it isn't the end of the world, there will be more chances.
If you are afraid of rejection you won't learn why you didn't make it. You just have to laugh about it. You won't feel great about it at the time, but just know that in a week or so you will feel better.
10.Don't take it all too seriously
When I was starting out I was taught not to take everything so seriously. Just try and if it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out.
I was more easy going then than I am now. Sometimes I wish I could be her again. Now, because my career has been so amazing you want to hold on to that and it gets scarier every year trying to maintain the success.
You just have to go for it, if you fail all that will happen is you will get up and do better the next time.