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EXCLUSIVE: Cynthia Erivo, just weeks away from starting rehearsals for the two-part Wicked musical movie, has stopped off in London to wow an audience at the Royal Albert Hall with a concert performance for the BBC Proms that will broadcast and stream in the late fall.
It was her first time headlining at the august venue situated in Kensington, which sits across from Hyde Park. “I was asked randomly one day to perform at the Proms. I said ‘yes’ — of course I said ‘yes,’” said Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress, singer and producer.
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Erivo said that she’s now headed to Hawaii for vacation “to chill out” but added she was returning in August to rehearse for Wicked role Elphaba, the witch.
Principal photography for Wicked, directed by Jon M. Chu, starts in November. The film, adapted from the Broadway hit show and a prequel of sorts to Wizard of Oz, will also star Ariana Grande as Glinda. Wicked is based on Gregory Maguire’s novel and was adapted by Winnie Holzman. Music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz. All are busy in London prepping for the extensive rehearsal period that will last several weeks.
Chu recently revealed that the Universal Pictures production, which Marc Platt is producing, will be released in two stages: chapter one on December 25, 2024 with chapter two exactly a year later.
It might make sense to split the movies and end part one the way the stage musical does, with Elphaba performing the soaring number “Defying Gravity.”
The “green witch,” as Erivo called Elphaba, is a huge role for her and it feels appropriate that the artist will be filming the mammoth production (shooting’s likely to last a year) in her home town. In a sense she’s returning in triumph because she had to leave the UK to find stellar success in the U.S.
Erivo, who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, won the Tony award for her lead role in musical The Color Purple, a production that originated at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory theater. A sensation on Broadway, it was inevitable that Hollywood would pursue her and in quick succession came films Bad Times at the El Royale, Widows and Harriet; the latter won her a best actress Academy Award nomination.
She smiled when asked if she had felt neglected by arts organizations in the UK in the past. “Me? I just keep doing what I — chugging away and eventually they catch up,” she responded.
The BBC Proms show was part of its Legendary Voices concerts. Erivo performed numbers that included the classic standard Don’t Rain On My Parade from Funny Girl and Midnight Train to Georgia. She was accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Edwin Outwater and led by Nathaniel Anderson.
Andrea Grant, Phebe Edwards, Sumudu Jayatilaka and Nick Shirm provided backing vocals.
Erivo said she was “overwhelmed” by the audience’s ecstatic response. “I’ve done the Hollywood Bowl, the Grammys, but this was the biggest, here in my home town,” she added.
Cynthia Erivo: Legendary Voices was recorded for BBC Radio 3 and can be found on BBC Sounds. It will be shown on BBC Two on August 28 and will be available on BBC iPlayer until October 10.
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