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This article was published 31/8/2011 (3190 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Natalie Daradich makes quite the first impression, floating high above the Centennial Concert Hall stage in a bubble at the outset of the much applauded musical Wicked.
"It's good to see... me, isn't it?" asks the beaming Toronto-born star of the American touring production that has been wowing Winnipeggers for the last week, and will wrap up its run Sunday.
And, well, it has been. Daradich's debut as the cheeky, sweetly conceited good witch Glinda is one of the main pleasures of Wicked, which, with seven current productions around the world, has cast a global spell. She is enchanting from the moment she -- a cosmetically perfect blond resplendent in a scalloped gown, glittering tiara and sparkly wand -- lands in Munchkinland.
"It really is the greatest entrance," says Daradich this week, during an interview without her blond stage wig. "It's a fun way to start a show. I love my bubble."
Wicked tells the story of bickering college roommates Glinda and green-skinned Elphaba, who become unlikely friends, collaborators and romantic rivals. This alternative reading of The Wizard of Oz suggests that Elphaba was a victim of having being born with the wrong skin colour and of a nefarious political smear campaign that add up to her not deserving to be dubbed the infamous Wicked Witch of the West.
"I feel it is very empowering for women and young girls," says Daradich, who has never been to Winnipeg before. "I love the message about having to love what's inside."
Daradich has always felt a personal connection with the story, especially the celluloid 1939 version starring Judy Garland as Dorothy.
"My mother used to rent it at the public library pretty regularly," says the soprano, a product of Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. "We probably took it home once every month. It was one of my favourite movies; it still is."
When the dark-haired performer is recognized on the street, her attachment to the film is bolstered.
"A lot of people say I look like Judy Garland," she says. "I've seen pictures where I think I do. As a child I liked Dorothy because she was brunette like me."
Besides the aerial view, Daradich has seen Wicked from every angle since being hired in 2007 as a swing role in the Los Angeles production. She then went into the ensemble, where she also covered the roles of Glinda and Nessarose, Elphaba's wheelchair-bound sister. About 18 months later, she graduated to Glinda standby in San Francisco, where she occasionally got to go on.
"These roles are very demanding," says the singleton, who refuses to divulge her age. "It's hard to upkeep eight shows a week for a really long time. If you are not feeling well, it's not a show you just want to give it a go. We're going to a lot of places (in Western Canada) where the show has never been, so I think it's my duty to be out there every time ready to give 100 per cent."
As a co-star, she feels the weight of the show on her shoulders -- if not in responsibility, certainly in the heft of some of the dresses that, like her light blue number, can weigh upwards of 10 kilograms.
"It's a dream dress, so I am happy to wear it," she says. "I like sparkles and girly things. I'm kind of living my six-year-old girl dream every night. I'm not going to lie, sometimes I feel like the blond Barbie I wished I was as a kid."
Besides her rafter-rattling voice, Daradich says she's been hired because of her giggle, prominently displayed in her signature number, Popular. It's the comic moment when every Glinda is judged, always against the role-defining performance of Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth.
"Everybody expects Elphaba to sing the crap out of Defying Gravity and everybody expects Glinda to be super funny with Popular," she says. "It's very easy to go over the top but I try not to make it something super silly."
Daradich keeps a low profile on the road, saving her energy for showtime. This week a contingent of cast members went out to see the horror movie Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.
"I really love scary films; I live for them," she says. "It has few jump-worthy moments but it wasn't the type of thing that would scare me."
She lives out of a suitcase, with no place to call home. The duration of her up-in-the-air living circumstances depends on the length of the Wicked tour.
You can't help but believe her when she says, "For now I'm just enjoying the ride."