I think this was the very first interview I did with The AU Review- Steve Danielsen! A really lovely guy who played Fiyero in the second Australian tour of Wicked. Fun fact: when we chatted he was on a bit of a jog around Melbourne. Gotta keep up that endurance!
The interview was originally posted on Arts on the Au.
Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, is making its eagerly awaited return to Sydney this September after delighting Melbourne audiences since the start of the year.
The AU Review chatted to Steve Danielsen about starring in his first leading role, the musical’s triumphant return to Sydney, and his thoughts about his character FIYEROOOOOOOOOOO!! *ahem* Fiyero.
You’re no stranger to the stage, but what is it like to be performing in your first leading musical role?
It’s sounds a bit cliché but it’s actually really surreal, and very humbling at the same time. In this industry you’ve got to work really hard and I did so, as hard as I possible could, and Fiyero is really one of those dream roles for any leading man. It’s just one of those things that excites me every day- I get to walk into the theatre and head in the stage door and do that eight times a week! Wicked is just such a beautiful production and we’re all very lucky to have such a beautiful well-written story to tell every night.
It’s very exciting and it’s definitely put me on top of the world at the moment!
How did you get into musical theatre?
I was always heading in the direction of film and television, mainly because I wasn’t a dancer. I trained in singing and acting, but my dancing wasn’t my strong point. After I did Xanadu the Musical I decided I really needed to focus on my dancing, so I took myself off to New York and started from scratch at the Broadway Dance Centre. I came back to Australia after seeing a whole bunch of shows and, to cut a long story short, I got into Legally Blonde 12 months after I’d auditioned. So all the hard work with my dancing had paid off and I had the musical theatre bug so badly. While I was doing Blonde I continued to do dance and vocal classes, managed to get through the Wicked auditions and here I am!
I really love musical theatre, I love being able to tell a story through songs, especially for a show that has such a beautifully written script and score. The show is still challenging and fun for me and it’s not something I get bored of at all.
How would you describe your character Fiyero? Are you anything like Fiyero?
*Laughs* Well I am a little bit of a party boy and I do like to get out and about and be social, but I feel there is a lot more to me than I think people realize as well. I am the only one in my family who is in musical theatre, but I also love the V8 Supercars, I build coffee tables, I snowboard… So in musical theatre I’m like an anomaly. I try and do a lot of other stuff that other people wouldn’t necessarily realize about me. Just like Fiyero- there are a lot of things that other people don’t know about him either, and his meeting and falling for Elphaba is definitely one of those things. There are a lot of similarities between us and I think that really helps with the storytelling.
What was it like taking over from your friend Rob Mills in the leading role?
After doing Blonde me and Mills struck up quite a good friendship and we’re quite good buddies, but I was given the opportunity to bring my own flare, my own decisions and my own acting choices to the role. It was a really good opportunity for me, and for everybody else, to get together and have a really tight-knit collaboration whilst bringing their own thing to the characters. So taking over from Rob, obviously there is the element of pressure taking over the role from anyone, but you make it your own and then it just becomes your own role in the industry. I must admit though, he did make me nervous when he came in to watch it!
What is it like acting alongside Lucy Durack (Glinda) and Jemma Rix (Elphaba) in the roles of the leading ladies, roles that they are certainly no strangers to?
I love working with those two, they’re both very different girls but they’re both so lovely and the nicest humans. Obviously I was super excited to work again with Lucy after Legally Blonde, and it was great to be able to work with her in a lead role. She is hilarious in the role of Glinda and she is constantly making both Jemma and I laugh in moments of the show. She always brings something new to the role every night and she’s just a pleasure to work with. And the same with Jemma, they’re both so lovely and giving and just very generous actors, so I’m pretty happy to be working with them both.
What do you think attracts Fiyero to Elphaba?
I think there is an initial moment when they help each other out with the little baby lion cub and there is a just a little bit of a connection there that they both really don’t realize what it is yet. But the reason I think Fiyero likes Elphaba is that he lives this really cliché lifestyle, he’s from a privileged background and he’s always had the ‘Glindas’ around him, but that’s not really who he is. He’s attracted to her because he realizes that’s who he is and that’s where Fiyero really lies in the story. Meeting her indirectly pushes him towards being attracted to her and realizing who he really is.
Which is your favourite song to perform in the production?
I do love doing ‘Dancing Through Life’ because it’s such a big fun happy number, but I also think I prefer doing ‘As Long As You’re Mine’. Only because for me vocally it’s really challenging and I love the defining moment for both characters in the show. That’s probably what’s most important to me- that they’re on the run and it may be the only time they will get to express their feelings for each other before they get hunted down. So they’re at their wits end and it’s a really beautiful moment.
You recently completed the national tour for Legally Blonde, and now you’re in the middle of the Wicked tour (from New Zealand, Manila and now Australia), is it a different feeling to be part of a show on tour?
There’s always a new kind of vibe going through a different city, but moving around is a little bit hard- it’s hard to hold relationships, it’s hard to keep in touch with family and friends. But it is what we signed up for, and you’ve just got to be prepared to go and move away your life for a while and do what you love. You just work around the lifestyle and just make sure to stay in touch with family and friends.
Internationally is a little more difficult, but once you’re in the theatre you feel at home.
What are your feelings coming to Sydney? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to, or as a Melbourne boy are you Melbourne-biased?
We’re all really looking forward to getting up to Sydney for summer, but I’m definitely going to miss Melbourne because all my family and friends are here. I am a little bit Melbourne-biased, but I’m going to be living out coastal-wise in Sydney so I can get a bit of beach time and some sun!
What is the best part of performing?
I would have to say the rush of going out on stage every night- there is no other job that you get applause and take a bow! The lifestyle that it provides me, and the happiness that it gives me to be able to go out on stage every night and tell really awesome stories. That’s probably the best part about performing- just the way it makes me feel.
Do you have any advice for young Australians hoping to pursue a career in musical theatre?
Don’t take several knock-backs as a personal thing. Continue to get the love and support from your family and friends, because without them it’s a pretty daunting industry. Also just really focus 100% on what you want. It sounds really cliché but it’s the truth- if you want it bad enough you’ll work hard and you’ll focus on the things you need to focus on. Like I needed to focus on my dancing, so I went out and spent every cent I earned because I wanted it so badly. So if you want it badly enough you just need to keep focusing on it and never give up.
Finally, how would Fiyero try and convince the AU audience to come see Wicked in Sydney?
If you grew up with the Wicked of Oz, this is the prequel about the Witches of Oz, and it is a beautiful story with beautiful lyrics. All the character journeys are just a really nice thing to watch. Apart from the story, it’s got one of the most incredible sets and some of the most well worked costumes that you’ll ever see. It’s more of an event really to come and see Wicked. It’s not just about the story, it’s about everything- it’s just a fantastic show!
We’re all looking forward to getting up to Sydney in the next two weeks, and I encourage everyone to come and check it out!
Wicked is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. It is the recipient of 90 major awards including a Grammy®, three Tony Awards® and six Helpmann Awards®, including ‘Best Musical’.
Wicked is defying gravity at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from the 20th September. For more information and tickets please visit: http://www.wickedthemusical.com.au/